QUÉBEC CITY, Canada - In the early 2000s a wave of Russians rose up and took women's tennis by storm. Some are still going strong, some have since left the game - others are somewhere in between.
After a few years of grinding it out on the ITF Women's Circuit and in WTA qualies, Elena Bovina truly announced herself to the tennis world during the 2002 season, winning her first two WTA titles at Warsaw and Québec City and reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open. She would be a fixture at the top of the game the next few years, winning her third WTA title at New Haven in 2004 and eventually going as high as No.14 in the world during 2005 - but that's when injury struck.
"I was doing really well at the time and moving up the rankings, and moving closer and closer to the Top 10, but then I got a shoulder injury during the French Open in 2005," Bovina said. "It was my first major injury and took me out for almost two years. It was a really tough one for me. I was struggling with my rehab and a lot of the doctors were telling me to do the surgery, but Jennifer Capriati had the exact same shoulder injury and took the surgery and had to stop tennis because she never recovered.
"So I avoided that risk and just tried to rehab it, and it took me a long time, but I did it."
Though she was healthy and playing again, there were some other things that got in the way after that.
"When you're away from the tour for that long, it's difficult to find your rhythm and your game again. I didn't have a great start in my return. I may have rushed a little bit to get back. And right after I started again I had a few more injuries right away because my body wasn't used to handling all that work anymore. So I had to stop again, and I was on and off for the next few years. It was a struggle.
"The ranking kind of dropped so I had to start playing the smaller tournaments and challengers and the players who play those are really good - it's not a walk in the park at all - so it was just really hard for me to not only get back physically, but also just working back to the WTA level was hard."
Fast forward to 2013, and Bovina actually hasn't played all year, thanks to a hip injury. But the former World No.14 - whose huge serve, huge groundstrokes and fabulous net game will always make her a huge threat on the court - is determined to compete amongst the best players in the world again.
"Definitely one of the things that keeps me going is knowing I've done well before so I can do well again - if I didn't have the success I had already, I'm not so sure I would keep going right now. But to know I have the weapons to be a top player, it's like a motor that keeps you going and giving your best to get back, even if you have to go through struggles, like I've had to go through the last few years.
"Right now my main goal is to get healthy again. Now I'm in Québec City - I have a very good friend here, he's actually on the board for this tournament, and he knows a very good doctor here who takes care of a lot of hockey players, so he invited me over to try this guy, and I liked what I heard from him. I decided to stay here. They have a good group of physiotherapists. It's going very well so far."
How is the Russian enjoying living in Québec City? "It's a great place. Usually I say it doesn't matter where you are, only who you're with, but I'm really enjoying this city - it's very, very nice, very pretty, not too big but with lots to do. And I have nice memories from winning the tournament here, of course.
"And I'm definitely going to use this time to improve my French!"
You can't do a catch-up interview without asking about fondest memories - and Bovina has a very good memory indeed. "Winning any Grand Slam title is a very nice moment, so I have to say one of my best memories was winning the Australian Open mixed doubles with Nenad Zimonjic. He's a very good friend of mine and a spectacular tennis player. And my singles titles were great too, especially the New Haven tournament - I wasn't expecting to do well there. And the US Open quarterfinals, that was a great time. My sister and mom were there supporting me when I played Davenport. It was great."
And it's memories like those that keep Bovina inspired to one day get back to the big time.
"I'm so motivated to get back. It's like quitting isn't even an option. I have to be realistic and see how this rehab goes, but at the same time I'm super motivated. I still think I have three or four years of playing in me. I've missed so many years on the tour and really feel like I haven't had enough.
"I still feel like a kid who wants to achieve her dreams."