Alina Jidkova: Moving On
Published December 06, 2010 12:00
BOCA RATON, FL, USA - She played on the WTA for over a decade, having a career season in 2004 that included a career win over Serena Williams. But now Alina Jidkova, 33, has decided it's time to move on. Here's her story...
Hello everyone :) I want to thank you all for all of your support over the years.
I started playing tennis at age 10. I was always sick as a child, I couldn't keep my food down. So, doctors recommended I play sports. I tried swimming, gymnastics and ice skating. When I was smaller I actually had a dream of becoming a pro gymnast, but I couldn't touch the floor with my fingers!
One day my father told me the next day he'd take me to see a sport, the name of which he didn't know - he said it looked like fun, though. That's how I started.
I played twice a month for a year, then my coach told my parents they should look for a better club for me, because I was talented. I went to Spartak.
My first time going to the USA was in 1990. I came with a group of kids. My uncle paid for my trip - it was equivalent to the price of a car! I won seven Under 18 titles when I was 13. Some newspapers wrote about me, and when I came back to Russia, I got a phone call from an American businessman who offered to sponsor me and take me to Bolletieri's. I think I was the first Russian at the academy. But my sponsor got into financial trouble and I had to leave the US.
Without being able to practice, it was hard to see a future for me. But I had a dream. I came back to the US in 1997 with $500 in my pocket. I lived in trailer parks and storage facilities and practiced with whoever I could. I gave lessons in the evenings. I didn't see my family for two years. At one point I thought I wouldn't make it and decided to go to school. While studying for my SATs, I won a couple of ITF titles. That took my ranking up and I gave it another shot.
By the end of 1999 my ranking was good enough to get me into the qualies of the Australian Open. I didn't have enough money to go, but every time I was in trouble there were people around the world who came to rescue me, and I'd like to thank all of them for helping me - you know who you are :) This time was no different - a tennis club owner in Amsterdam sent me a ticket to Melbourne.
That was a turning point. I made it through qualies and into the third round of the main draw, where I lost to Davenport. She won the tournament. I was so nervous I couldn't feel my legs, and she was my most difficult opponent, because I couldn't even guess where she was going to hit the ball. But that tournament put me in the Top 100 and my career as a real professional began!
The best memories of my career were that match against Davenport, playing Hingis at the US Open, winning Acapulco doubles with Perebiynis and of course, beating Serena in Linz - I was in such a zone that all I remember from that match was the match point and some man in the stands kissing me after!
In 2005 I was at my best ranking, but my mind and body were really tired. When I got halfway through the year I was mentally burned out. I got injured at my favorite tournament, the Kremlin Cup, on center court in front of my family and friends. I had reconstructive surgery on my ACL, and injured both my meniscus and MSL. While I was gone I actually started a company, bemypearl.com.
I came back too early, after nine months, and even though I did quite well, I just didn't feel the same. My knee took two years to get to 100%. In 2008, my father had a heart attack, and that made me think how short life can be, and how I'd like to try different things and spend more time with my family. I also know how hard I had to work to play at a high level, and after years of hard work and sacrifice, I started thinking about having my own family. In May of this year, my boyfriend of six years proposed to me. Our wedding is on December 18. That helped me make a decision - it was a sign to start a new life.
I met my fiancé, Sascha Ghods, at the airport in Acapulco. I saw something special in him - not only was he cute, but also smart. He came into my life at the right time and has been with me through the worst of times. He showed me a different side of life and for that I am always going to be thankful.
In my tennis life I have been through things many people don't go through in three lifetimes - but it made me stronger. I also got to travel the world, meet lots of people and learn three more languages. I was the only one in my age group to make it out of Russia - when I started, I was one of a few Russian girls trying to pave the road for the new generation after the iron curtain came down.
As I dance at my wedding, I'll look back and won't regret anything. And if I really, really miss it, I'll come back and play doubles. My dream of becoming a pro came true - now it's time to find a new dream and make it come true.
I would like to stay in tennis and pass on my experience to a younger player. I would also like to help women who have been through difficult relationships. And if other possibilities come up I will be happy to consider them. Right now, though, I'm going to spend time with family and friends - and get married!