Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is leaving nothing to chance. The World No.14 enjoyed the best season of her career in 2021, making her first major final at Roland Garros and her first WTA 1000 semifinal in more than a decade, in Madrid. Away from the WTA Tour, the 30-year-old brought home Olympic gold in mixed doubles with Andrey Rublev in Tokyo and was part of the squad that stunned Switzerland to win Russia its first Billie Jean King Cup since 2008.
Pavlyuchenkova's 2021 success pushed her to a career-high No.11, an inspired result for a player whose best days many believed had passed her by. She was a dominant junior No.1 who remains the last player to win three junior Slams. After a breakout 2009 season in which she made the Indian Wells semifinals as a 17-year-old and finish the year ranked No.27, Pavlyuchenkova is the first to admit her motivation ebbed and flowed over the next decade.
Now, with her brother taking the coaching reins and a renewed focus on putting her health and fitness first, Pavlyuchenkova says she's ready to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of her goals.
WTA Insider: You're coming off the best season of your career and a very strong finish, winning the Billie Jean King Cup. After such a long season, did that victory help you when it was time to get back to training for this season?
Pavlyuchenkova: It was just so incredible to end the year on such an unbelievable note, to end the year and finish it off with the win. Andrey [Rublev], before we started mixed doubles also at Olympics, he was so down on himself because he was like, 'OK, we're singles players. What am I doing here?' That was before the first match. I could never actually understand.
Of course, we're very individual players, we play singles, but a trophy is a trophy. A win is a win. Especially such incredible events as the Olympics and Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup and all of that. That's the base of tennis was, Fed Cup and Davis Cup, all the legends were playing. It was very prestigious for me growing up. I'm a little bit older than Dasha and I've lost three Fed Cup finals. And so for me, it was one of the goals I wanted to tick as well. For me, I just like winning, doesn't matter what. Even if it's a team or singles.
Andrey and Dasha saw how incredible it is to win those team competitions because the emotion is double what you normally feel because there are many more players sharing it with you. So I just thought it's definitely always better to end the year like this. We were happy going into pre-season, motivated, and for me personally, it was pushing me even more to do even better this year. It's just all these positive vibes.
WTA Insider: What are your goals for 2022?
Pavlyuchenkova: Of course, I want to at least break into the Top 10 because I've never reached that goal yet in my career. But I don't want to get too crazy with this because I know how damaging it could be. Thinking about the results and rankings can ruin your whole path and momentum. I'm just trying to be smart with this.
I would love to do a Grand Slam final or win it. I would like to repeat and do even better than 2021, but I don't want to also set up some particular goals I would say. I just want to take it tournament by tournament, keep improving. I feel like I can still improve a lot in my game. Also, I've started working with a fitness trainer in my pre-season. He was with me in Australia.
My New Year's resolution was to have this solid team that I wouldn't change, just kind of stays consistent throughout the year because I've had a lot of changes also and that's also not healthy and that creates the chaos a little bit in the results. Sometimes it's not even my fault that some of the members are stolen (laughs).
So that would be my main goal. And then I think with me being consistent with my training and my mentality, I think everything should hopefully follow.
WTA Insider: Some young players who have breakout results as teenagers are incredibly hungry to back up that success immediately. Others end up being late bloomers. Maybe feeling like there are fewer years left in your career creates a different motivation for you.
Pavlyuchenkova: I still remember that match in Indian Wells when I beat Jelena Jankovic to make the semis. I was only 17. From that moment on, I have had all these full years on tour. So imagine when you're 17 and you're a promising player and I was already Top 30 in the world. I don't know. I was losing it because I didn't have a proper goal. I always felt like I have so much time ahead of me, so why now? Why should I be so, so careful right now at this moment, I have time. But then time goes by really fast. And then it's also dangerous if you always think about it and then don' do the right things, then you can lose the whole thing.
Now I don't feel like I have 10 more years ahead of me. I don't feel like I have a lot of time. So that's why every moment for me is super precious. That's why I don't want to screw it up. I want to do it every single day very good and the best I can to be better tomorrow.
So that's how it feels. I always look back and think in probably if I achieved everything too early before in my career, I would probably never be here still playing, that's for sure.
WTA Insider: What has led to this desire for stability at this point in your career?
Pavlyuchenkova: I think maturity for sure. That's number one. I think it also helps that I had good results last year. That helps you to see the whole picture and see for yourself that you're able to compete at that level and produce some great matches and great wins. You're capable of being close to the Top 10, so that gives you some extra power. Because I think if most of the times you work hard but don't see any results or you see that it doesn't pay off, it's tough to believe in yourself more and continue.
So that was a big step and push last year, that I could see that, OK, I think I can do it. And then, of course, that pushed me more. I think that's the main reason, I'd say.
And then as I said before, I don't want to sit after my career at home, somewhere with my friends on the couch watching tennis on TV, and have the biggest regret in my life, that I could have done this better but I didn't. I could have hired more professionals on my team, but I didn't. So that was the main thing also.
I just feel like I want to do it right. I want to be professional. This is my job, this is my life, and I want to do well. Looking back, I think there are a lot of things I could have done better. But anyway, let's take this as a starting point now.