Vera Zvonareva's Questionnaire
Vera Zvonareva began last week's DFS Classic in Birmingham determined to craft a different end. A top 10 player as recently as August of 2004, Zvonareva opened the 2005 season advancing to the Auckland final then bottomed out in exiting in the first or second round in 10 of her next 11 tournaments. During the Birmingham final, Zvonareva finally stopped the bleeding. Facing American Jamea Jackson, who upset 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova in the semifinals, Zvonareva overcame two bloody noses and the fleet-footed Jackson in scoring a 7-6(12), 7-6(5) triumph to claim her first career grass-court title and her third championship of her career.
Scoring six straight victories to take the title, Zvonareva vaulted back inside the top 50 to her present rank of No. 47. She joins Sharapova, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina, Dinara Safina, Maria Kirilenko, Elena Likhovtseva and Anna Chakvetadze as one of 10 Russian women ranked inside the top 50.
But it was another Russian — two-time Grand Slam champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov — who inspired Zvonareva to pursue a career in professional tennis. An emotionally volatile player, Zvonareva's on-court outbursts have spanned the spectrum from tears to tirades at times, but at her best, she has shown the fighting spirit that has carried her to career victories over Venus Williams (at the 2003 French Open), Jennifer Capriati, Anastasia Myskina and Maria Sharapova.
Tennis Week contributing writer Scoop Malinowski caught up with Zvonareva for this Biofile interview.
Status: The 47th-ranked Zvonareva beat Jamea Jackson to win her first tournament title of the season at the Tier III DFS Classic in Birmingham. It was her third career singles title and her first on grass. The 21-year-old Moscow native, who has finished inside the top 15 in two of the last three years, owns career wins over Jennifer Capriati, Venus Williams, Anastasia Myskina, Nadia Petrova and Maria Sharapova.
Height: 1.71 m Weight: 59 kg.
Born On: September 7, 1984 in Moscow, Russia.
Childhood Heroes: "I was looking for Kafelnikov, he's a Russian, one of the Russians who won a Grand Slam. I was looking for Hingis as well. I just like the way she was playing."
Hobbies/Interests: "I like reading, traveling, listening to music — something without sports. But I also like to play volleyball, like beach volleyball. Watch Russian movies [smiles], because I don't get the chance to when I'm home."
Favorite Movies: "Mostly Russians. I don't think you've heard about them [smiles]."
Musical Tastes: "Actually any kind of music, I like different. I listen to music because I miss home. But I can listen to classical music, I can listen to R&B, rap and just pop music."
First Job:"Tennis [laughs]."
First Car: "VW Polo (white)."
Early Tennis Memory: "I started playing in the club in Moscow. I remember there was lots of kids in my group, about 30. And we all had to play on the one court, but it was fun [smiles]."
Favorite Meal: "Russian soup, borscht [smiles]."
Favorite Breakfast Cereal: "Frosted Flakes [laughs]."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: "Strawberry."
Pre-Match Feeling: "Usually I'm trying to talk to my coach and not really thinking about something. Just thinking about I have to go on court and try my best and do something, everything I can to win the match."
Greatest Sports Moment: "Winning over Venus Williams in Paris, Roland Garros (2003)."
Most Painful Moment: "Maybe losing to Myskina when I had nine match points [smiles], in San Diego (2004)."
Funny Tennis Memory: "Makes me laugh sometimes when I watch myself on TV [laughs]. When I'm talking to myself on court."
Closest Tennis Friends: "I think the younger players. I've played juniors with Kuznetsova, Myskina. And Likhovtseva."
Funniest Players: "I think all of them. They have pretty good sense of humor."
Toughest Competitors: "It's tough question. But I don't like to play against Smashnova, because I always play four hours against her [laughs]. So I think she is."
Favorite Vacation Spot: "Home. Moscow."
Childhood Dream: "Well, of course, I wanted to become a tennis player. And I just always really like to get into top 10 I think." Favorite Players To Watch: "I like to watch Andy Roddick. Every time he serves, I just check the speed of the serve [laughs]. And Agassi. I think Rios was another player I liked to watch. I watched him play in Washington and I think he was a great player to watch, for me. I think he was like an actor on the court. And I love it because he was doing his show. Everybody knows it's tough to play in tennis, especially when it's 100 degrees. And he was like, performing as an actor. You can always see his emotions. He wasn't like just standing there, doing his job. You could see how he feels."
People Qualities Most Admired: "I like to see...it's tough question. When the people saying the truth. And I think straight people."