The Breakers star who recently knocked off the world no. 1 doubles team of Hingis/Mirza on her way to a quarterfinal birth at the BNP Paribas Open tells fans about her expectations for the 2016 Mylan World TeamTennis season in this edition of Breakers Insiders.
What excites you the most about playing for the Breakers in 2016?
I hear Newport Beach is a lovely place and I love playing in California. The fans are always very knowledgeable about tennis and are very involved in the game, so I look forward to getting to know our Breakers fans this summer!
2016 is your second year in Mylan WTT, what did you like that made you want to play again this year?
I really enjoyed my time with the team last year and I feel like we had a really good draft for this year as well. The atmosphere at the matches is electric, they play music between the points and things move along quicker, the flow of the match can change at any moment and it is very exciting. Mylan WTT also offers more involvement with the crowd than at a regular tour event and I really like that.
What are your expectations for the Breakers this season?
I think we can finally take down the Kastles if we can keep the same spirit as last year. My expectations are high but I know we will also have a good time as a team with Nicole, Scott, Dennis and coach Rick. We need to expect to fight together as a team and have a good time.
What is a typical day in your life like?
Ha! A typical day in my life is not very exciting to be honest. Once a week I pack my bag, take a plane to a new city, usually at an hour that is too early for any normal human to function properly, get to a new hotel, unpack my bag and go to sleep. The other six days a week I train for 3-5 hours a day, depending on whether or not I have many matches that week. I also do homework (I am a student at Indiana University East) for about 2-3 hours a day and if I have time and/or energy I might catch a dinner with some friends on tour. Not too colorful.
Aside from tennis, do you have a favorite sport?
I do not follow any other sports closely, but soccer is a big sport in Russia so I like to watch it if it is on TV. However, it is not on TV very often in the United States. I played beach volleyball with friends recreationally during vacations and I really enjoyed that too, although I tend to do the same thing I do in tennis and get the ball over the net on the first strike.
Do you have a favorite meal?
I love Greek food. It is my favorite cuisine. Moussaka is my favorite dish. But I find it hard to find great Greek restaurants, so when it is not available I love Japanese restaurants that serve shabu-shabu.
What is the best concert you have been to and why?
I haven’t been to many concerts but one of my favorites was a Mariah Carey concert I attended in Singapore. It was a magical trip for me and she performed one of my favorite songs “My All” so it is definitely one of my favorites.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Last off-season I went to Maui for vacation and I loved it. It is a beautiful island and the people I met there were absolutely phenomenal. I look forward to going back to Hawaii and visiting other islands. I also love visiting Australia, but I’ve never been there on vacation so I guess that is a different question.
If you could give a young kid with aspirations of playing professional tennis one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t get discouraged if things don’t go your way. Tennis is a tough sport and although hard work always pays off, sometimes it takes a while for it to shine through. If you can stay positive and work for the love of the sport and not for instant gratification, good things will happen.
Aside from string and rackets, what do you keep in your racket bag?
Grips, shoes, change of clothes, a towel, set of elastic bands for warm ups and rehab exercises. I also keep a set of headphones, some schoolwork and usually a couple random things that I forget to take out.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I like to sing very very loudly in the car. Sometimes at stop lights people notice and smile, wave or point at me for their passengers to see, but I don’t care, I just keep on singing.
Last question, what is the best moment of your tennis career?
I know it might sound cheesy but I am completely honest when I say playing Mylan World TeamTennis was one of my favorite moments of my tennis career. Yes, I had good wins like the one against Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2008, I won a WTA title in singles in 2010 and in 2014 my doubles partner and I won 3 doubles titles and qualified for the Year End Championship in Singapore. However, playing in the conference final last year at our home venue in Austin, with “Eye of a Tiger” playing before a deciding point is definitely a highlight. It was an incredible moment for me and I look forward to this summer and Mylan WTT with Orange County Breakers.