Life Begins At 30 For Petrova
Published October 01, 2012 09:55
Received wisdom suggests that tennis is a young woman's game. However, if recent evidence is anything to go by, received wisdom is fairly wide of the mark.
In the Tokyo final this past weekend, Nadia Petrova, 30, had Agnieszka Radwanska, the World No.3 and a player seven years her junior, chasing shadows for long periods. Petrova's three set victory saw her lift the 12th - and the biggest - title of a career that looks to be anything but slowing down.
After spending most of 2011 bobbing around the 20s and 30s in the rankings and struggling for any form to speak of, Petrova has been a totally different beast this season. The decision to employ Ricardo Sánchez as her new full-time coach in February has revitalized not just the Russian's results but also on-court demeanor.
"Every match I play, I feel like he's playing with me," Petrova said after the final in Tokyo. "He gets so much involved in it. He fist pumps, he gets up, he claps, he helps me out emotionally.
"And even in the third set when I called him at 2-1, I said, 'I need some help from you, because I'm getting low on energy.' And that kind of support courtside it helps a lot, and it was working the whole week."
Victory in Tokyo has taken Petrova up to No.14 in the world - her highest ranking for 27 months - and reinstalled the belief that, even at the grand old age of 30, there is still a place with her name on it at tennis' top table.
"As long as you have the motivation and the will to get better, improve and compete, I don't think age matters," the former World No.3 added. "I still find the will to wake up every morning and go on the court and try to perform my best and get better with each day.
"There are a few players who have won Grand Slams after 30, and I feel like I don't want to walk away from tennis without accomplishing the same. If it's meant to happen it will, but if it doesn't, at the end of my career I'll know I've done everything I could."
And the recent Grand Slam honor roll suggests this is far from a pipe dream; in each of the past three years there has been at least one Grand Slam champion who has been in or past their 30th year, while the same time span has also seen five first-time winners.
Like Petrova, Li has reaped the rewards of a coaching change - Justine Henin's former mentor Carlos Rodriguez came on board over the summer - and, like Petrova, she feels a positive outlook has helped her keep up with the WTA's young bucks.
"Carlos is always there to make any changes to my game and help me psychologically," Li said at this week's China Open. "He tries to make me more relaxed on court and helps keep me confident in my game.
"Age is not something that holds you back and 30 is not some kind of tennis watershed. I can't say what it feels like to be Petrova, but she had a great win last week in Tokyo and shows that you don't have to retire when you're 30!"