Big faith in small Vera

Natalja Zvonareva is one of the few tennis-player mothers whose daughter is absolutely independent in her choice of sport life. Natasha believes that every person should mind his or her own business, and she does it herself – she provides Vera with comfort and moral support at home. “A child should have rest at home”, - Natasha thinks, and when Vera comes to Moscow she makes everything to help her rehabilitate herself. They don’t speak about tennis in their family circle. But Natalja Zvonareva willingly agreed to speak about it on pages of a professional magazine.

About independence

Independence has been the main strain of Vera’s character since childhood. When she was a year and a half, and I tried to tie her shoe-lace she suddenly said: “I’ll do it myself!”. So, I thought, let it be this way. And so it was. She never had problems at school – she found time for everything. I haven’t known what “checking her homework” is since she went to first form. She studied well. Maybe, it’s because of me – I also liked school very much. Then she suddenly wanted that I took minimal participation in her tennis. Her first coach was Ekaterina Ivanovna Kryuchkova, a wonderful person, Vera is obliged much to her. But the decision to leave her she also made herself – when she was 16-17. I remember her coming and asking me some money for an aeroplane ticket. We gathered all our cash in hand with grandmother, though we didn’t know where she was going to. And she went to… America. She lived there sometimes at Alina Zhidkova’s place (who settled down in the USA a little bit earlier – I.V.), sometimes she was attached to some clubs where she had coaching. She went to tournaments herself, sending her data with the help of computer. There, in the USA, she won her first 50-thousand. Thus, she had her first, independent money. Then Julia Kashevarova went to tournaments with Vera. As for me (I can confess now), I don’t think it was a successful cooperation. Some time after Vera seemed to feel it herself and found out that she neede another tennis and another coach. Once, when she was in England, she spoke to young coach Lex Carrington whom she had known before and asked if he could work with her. They decided to try, and they got it all right... During the last final round of the Federation Cup they were in Moscow together, stayed at our place, and I made sure that Lex treated Vera attentively and with care – like she’s his younger sister. My daughter, notwithstanding all her independence, needs such care, because she was practically bereft of father’s attention. It turned out this way... Now I watch her performances mainly on TV screen, I watch the translations, I worry for her. Because I am a professional sportsman myself (Natasha is master of sports in field hockey, bronze medallist of Olympic Games ’80 in the national team of USSR – I.V.) Although I couldn’t use my own professional experience for training my own daughter. Why? First of all, Vera is used to being with her coach. Second, commonplace as it may seem, I had to earn money to help her establish a foothold. And now we have kind family relationship. For example, we were in Thailand this year. Vera invited me on holiday. She played and I swimmed, sunbathed, evenings we went to restaraunts.

Without finances

When Vera was born, I kept playing. Once, I remember, I came back from preparations, and my daughter (she was one year old then) cuddled up to her grandmother and didn’t want to meet me. I was crushed inside. The a new coach who came to our team for whom a player with a small child was inconvenient. But one time, when someone didn’t come to preparations, he rang me up in an urgent way, watched me play and gave orders to quickly draw up documents for departure with the national team.But I’ve already found me a job.All in all, I left big-time sports. With Vera already born, I’ve finished the physical culture institute. Simultaneously I got diplomas of coach and therapeutic physical training instructor. My main working place was 4th department poly-clinic where I specialized in curative gymnastics. In addition to that – extra jobs, different shaping studies, the same old curative gymnastics. But I always wanted much to work at Valentin Dikul Rehabilitation Center. So, as soon as I was given such opportunity, I came there. When Vera was small, these earnings were quite enough, but then, of course, expenses increased. Sometimes she went to competitions on borrowed money. Sometimes “Chajka” club supported her, for example, giving us back our money in case of victory on this or that tournament, though those victories were not at all often. Ekaterina Ivanovna Kryuchkova helped us. I remember we were robbed once. Vera was 14 then. The robbers got inside the apartment and stole the money intended for Vera’s tours. The Kryuchkovs (she and her husband) helped us very much back then. But we never had any sponsors. Nevertheless, if I even knew that tennis would cost so much money and nerves, I still would have taken my daughter to tennis section. She wanted it so very much.

About grandmother and maximalism

I knew that my child would go in for sports, and more likely – tennis in particular. When I played hockey, I often had tennis coachings, the coach said to me: either tennis, or cross-country race. And I was very fond of tennis. Vera visited coachings with me, and watched both hockey and tennis. The first enrollment was in “Chajka”. Vera was enrolled immediately. She was busy 48 hours a day. Besides tennis she had English, for some time – figure skating, swimming. Vera never said she didn’t enjoy visiting coachings, never played up about that. And she was getting along. Three years after 25 people were enrolled for the tennis group, only five of them including her, remained there. Vera had a maximalist temper. She wanted to succeed in everything and at once. What is the reason of that she cried at courts so often? That is the reason. She won 6/0, 6/0 but she cried because of the two-three balls she had lost. Now, of course, she is growing up and changing. Very much was given to Vera by her grandmother – Vera Martynovna, my mother. The fact that Vera achieved success, worked at self-improvement is completely her merit. She was very wise, very educated. She was the chief of labour and wages department at State Committee, where she was appreciated much. But as soon as Vera was born, she left her working place and dedicated herself to her granddaughter. Mother died last year, last autumn. Vera was playing in final round of Federation Cup then. Now when Vera comes to Moscow, we visit grandmother’s grave in the first place......

About private life

We separated with Vera’s father when she was a little child. He went to live in the USA. But what I want to say is: if father would have been near all this time – we can’t be sure that Vera would grow so independent and purposeful. It is unlikely; father could hardly believe that she would become a succesful sportsman. In general, my private life was over. It would be much harder in such circumstances otherwise. Now I keep telling myself that happiness of a woman is in her children. And father? Did he have a wish to appear on her scene? Yes. But Vera lost such wish. There was a moment when he could draw near her. When in America, Vera lived at his place for a week. Apparently, it was enough for her. Father started to dictate his conditions (you’ll participate in this tournament, not this one), behaved as her coach. He didn’t know her temper well. She didn’t want to communicate with him. We were driving in Natasha’s car from Dikul Center. In that very car that Vera bought her mother. — I never ever dreamed about it, — Natasha speaks up. — Three days after the purchase Vera needed to go to the airport. I told her: “I won’t go – or I’ll just smash the car”. She answered: “All right. But other month meet me by yourself”. So I had to study hard. Now she has a new apartment in Krasnogorsk. I try to renew it in the way she likes. I am nervous when I don’t get anything. Vera says: “Don’t be upset! Anyway, you do it for the first time!” When she comes, I don’t have much time. I have to wash, iron, feed her tasty, go shopping with her, go buying CDs with her – she is fond of music and different technical equipment on the whole. At home she rests and no-one bothers her. I’ll still be trying to provide her with all this. I’ll just stay her mother.


Inna Veryuhina
Magazine Tennis+ №9/2005(156)