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Noah Rubin’s “Behind The Racquet” • With • Vera Zvonareva | Tennis 10sBalls

Editor’s note: 10sBalls thanks Noah Rubin for giving us permission to repost these great stories.

“My mom worked so I spent most of my childhood with my grandma. She took me to school and practice every day since it was dangerous to travel on my own. We lived in the Southern part of Moscow and I traveled an hour and a half through the city to get to practice. My grandma was getting old and it was difficult for her to walk from one bus stop to another. At some point, I told my mom, “I don’t know if my grandma is taking me to practice or if I am taking my grandma to practice.”

At 19, my grandma passed away while we were in Russia for the Fed Cup. My mom was not sure how to tell me so I did not know for two days. When I heard the news, I was with my team in the hotel. We were scheduled to face France in the finals and I had to play a deciding doubles match. I knew my grandma was watching over me so I wanted to play for her. If I succeeded, I knew she would be happy. Focusing on her and playing for my country made me stronger and I fought for every point. I won and we captured the first ever Fed Cup title for Russia.

I was lucky because I quickly transitioned from juniors to the professional circuit. At 18, I won a 50K event in Naples, Florida and broke into the Top 50. I could pay for my tennis which was helpful because my parents would not have been able to afford my career. In 2009, I won Indian Wells then injured my ankle. I had to get surgery but was able to recover and play good tennis. The following year, I achieved my highest ranking of number 2 in the world. Two years later, I suffered a shoulder injury and had another surgery. I tried to return to the court but could not even serve half speed. My Achilles tendon hurt as well so it was difficult to move. I could no longer be competitive and did not want to play if my ranking was going to drop. I stopped playing and decided to get married and start a family. We moved to a new apartment and made a display with all of my trophies. I realized I achieved more than I ever would have dreamed and felt satisfied with my accomplishments. I had the chance to relax and process my time on tour.

At some point, I started to miss tennis. I had a child and returned to the court. My injuries felt better and I thought I would train for myself. I did not think I would come back to the professional circuit but was enjoying tennis so much I decided to challenge myself. I started competing again and am enjoying the journey. I am currently ranked 164. It feels different than before but it is my job. My family is my priority. It is difficult when I travel because my husband takes care of my daughter. If he asks me to come home, I would always choose to be with family. For now, they are happy I am able to compete again and have great results. I can still play good tennis and enjoy the challenge.”

Vera Zvonareva (@vera.zvonareva)


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