Getting To Know... Aleksandra Krunic
Published August 30, 2014 12:12
NEW YORK, NY, USA - Sokolniki Park in Moscow is much like any other in the sprawling metropolis. However, tucked away in a corner is its jewel: Spartak Tennis Club. The club's list of alumni is a veritable who's who of Russian tennis and includes Anna Kournikova, Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina and Dinara Safina among its number.
Aleksandra Krunic is the latest talent to have started out on the club's solitary indoor court, and after working her way up the ranks she is now ready to make her mark. On Tuesday, the 21-year-old defeated Katarzyna Piter on her Grand Slam debut, and then backed this up by holding her nerve to see off No.27 seed Madison Keys.
Can you tell us about where you grew up?
AK: I was born in Moscow, where my parents moved to as my father was finishing university there. I have a younger sister, Anastasia, who is 17 years old. She's just been accepted to the British Design School in Moscow, which is very exciting. My parents, Ivana and Bratislav, both work at a big electrical appliances company in Moscow called Gorenje. I finished high school in Moscow, then I moved to Slovakia to train for a year and a half. And last year I moved to Serbia. My whole team is Serbian, and I have extended family there, so it made sense to base myself in Serbia. I still consider Moscow to be my 'home city', but I currently live with my grandparents in Serbia.
When did you start playing tennis?
AK: When I was three my grandparents brought me a plastic racquet and sponge ball. I was a pretty active kid, so I used to run around hitting the ball everywhere and destroyed all my mother's plants and flowers. There was a local tennis school, with one older guy who used to do all the coaching, and so I went along there.
Can you talk about your coaching history?
AK: At seven, I went to train at the Spartak Club. I was coached by Eduard Safonov for 10 years and all my technique, my strokes, I owe to him. At 17, I moved to Slovakia and trained with Mojmir Mihal (who was also the coach of Rybarikova and Hrbaty). Last year, I settled in Serbia. I've pretty much always had my own coach. A professional tennis player requires a lot of attention and a lot of time spent focused on developing their game. I'm lucky that I've had a sponsor since I was 14 - a friend of my father's - who has helped fund my tennis. This is the first tournament I've played with my current coach - Branislav Jevremovic.
Does anyone travel with you on tour?
AK: My parents are still working in Moscow, so Branislav is here at the US Open, along with my physio, Miroslav Cuckic, who has been with me for three years. I'm not the type of player who gets injured much, but I'd prefer to prevent it, rather than heal it.
What are your strengths?
AK: Well, since I'm not the tallest player, I'm a good mover and try to get to every ball. I'm not a hitter, obviously, because I'm quite small, but I feel like I have quite good hands, I do a lot of running, and I try to break the rhythm of the opponent.
Who was your tennis idol when you were younger?
AK: Growing up I loved to watch Mary Pierce and Kim Clijsters. From the current players, I would say JJ, my countrywoman. I admire her spirit. She's always been very supportive of me, and I can learn from her never-give-up attitude. I also like to watch Aga Radwanska play - I like her smart game.
What's the best memory of your tennis career?
AK: My best tennis memory is playing Fed Cup for Serbia against Slovakia in 2010. It was the last match to get into the World Group. I was playing doubles with JJ and we were down 6-1, 5-1 down to Hantuchova and Rybarikova and ended up fighting back to win the match 9-7 in the third. That was the strongest emotions I've ever felt on a tennis court.
Do you have a favorite surface or tournament?
AK: Clay is my favorite surface. Baku is my favorite for the WTA events, and at Grand Slam level, I like the Australian Open.
What are your short and long-term goals?
AK: Short-term goal is main draw Australian Open. Long-term - by the end of next year - it would be great to be Top 50.
How far did you go in your studies?
AK: I'm currently in my fourth year of an economics degree at Singidunum University, a private university in Serbia. They are very flexible with me as I am doing distance learning. I hope to graduate at the end of this year.
What do you like to do to relax away from the court?
AK: Off the court, perhaps I'm a bit boring for my age, I'm not really a party girl! But I do enjoy having dinner with some of the other players on tour. It's nice to spend time with girls who are doing the same thing, talking to them, and sharing experiences. I also enjoy spending some time on my own, or doing some shopping. I like watching documentaries on YouTube to keep learning. I really like airplanes and learning all about them, but I actually hate flying, it's my biggest fear! But that's a passion of mine, learning a lot about what I fear. I'm really interested in psychology and criminology.