|September 23, 2003|
Two weeks. Two titles. Thatís Elena Dementievaís September wrapped up in four words. Resurgence. That describes the last six months.
A US Open semifinalist and Olympic silver medallist at age 18, Top 10-ranked at 19, the athletic Russian was quickly touted as a Grand Slam contender and potential No.1, possibly before she was ready to accept such labels.
As season 2000 rolled into 2001, the results, and seemingly the confidence, appeared to plateau. From May 2001 until just two weeks ago, Dementievaís ranking hovered in the teens and even spent a few weeks outside the Top 20.
Four finals appearances produced four runner-up finishes, leaving some tennis watchers wondering whether the Moscow native would ever return to the lofty heights of the Top 10.
Those critics have been dismissed time and again this yearófirst in April, when the now-21-year-old Dementieva (who turns 22 on 15 October) took her first WTA Tour singles title in Amelia Island.
After beating then-world No.9 Daniela Hantuchova in the quarterfinals, she saved a match point to beat No.4 Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semis and recovered from a 64 42 deficit to beat No.5 Lindsay Davenport in the final.
That emotional and momentous week alone pushed Elena back into the Top 20, up from No.21 to No.13. Add to that fourth round showings at Wimbledon and the US Open and semifinal finishes in Toronto and New Haven, and Dementieva left the US and headed to Asia back in the Top 10.
Not content with that achievement, Dementieva set out to build on her successes. And build she did, dropping just one set in nine matches over the past two weeks to win the Wismilak International in Bali, Indonesia and the Polo Open Shanghai in China, defeating Chanda Rubin in both finals.
Twenty-nine months after reaching No.9 in the world for the first time, Dementieva surpassed that last Monday and now ranks amongst the best eight players in the world.
Just moments after her victory in Shanghai, Elena Dementieva spoke with Notes & Netcords about the value of selfconfidence and enjoying her success.
Elena, firstly, congratulations on a marvelous couple of weeks. You started the year without a WTA Tour singles title to your nameónow you have three!
Well, winning that first title earlier this year gave me a lot of confidence. When I went to Amelia Island I didnít think I had a chance to win that tournament, because in the tournaments before itóAcapulco, Indian Wells and MiamióI was playing pretty badly and I had some tough losses.
Iíd been working pretty hard but up until Amelia Island it hadnít really meant good results on the court. Especially because Amelia Island is a very popular tournamentóit gets a lot of the top playersóso I didnít think it was my tournament to win. But then I beat three Top 10 players (Hantuchova, Henin- Hardenne, Davenport), and it was an amazing feeling.
That extra confidence no doubt helped you get through these two weeks.
For sure. When I went to Bali I had this feeling I could win the tournament, and I never would have had that feeling if I didnít win Amelia Island. Because I knew what it was like to win a title, I knew I could do it again. Itís OK to get to semifinals and finals, but itís a different feeling to actually win the title. So now I believe I should win these tournaments and be a Top 10 player again.
On that subject, you recently returned to the Top 10 after more than a two-year absence. Has it been more special this time than the first?
I was saying to my mom recently that when I first got to the Top 10, I was 19 years old and I didnít really understand how big that was. It all happened too fast and I didnít enjoy it. So to do it again, and knowing that it takes a lot of hard work, I understand it better this time and for sure Iím enjoying the moment a lot more.
Have you managed to celebrate this great achievement, of getting back into the Top 10, yet?
Not reallyóI havenít had time yet, because I was playing Bali and then of course Shanghai. After the final in Bali we went out for dinner with Chanda and her coach (Benny Sims) and Benny was trying to teach me the salsa, but I was so bad at it. Iím going to have to have lessons before I try it again!
With all the hard work you put in, do you allow yourself some days off when youíre not at a tournament?
Absolutely. When Iím in Moscow, and if Iíve just come back from overseas and Iím tired, Iíll have a day off. I like to spend time with all my familyówe go to a country house we have in the forest about an hour outside of Moscow and get together, which is really nice.
We hear that you have a favorite racquet that you use almost all the time in matches? Can you explain why this is so?
Well, after I lost in Miami, one of the Russian male players was playing around with one of my racquets, putting different weights on it. I used it in Sarasota and Charleston, and really liked it, and then I won Amelia Island with it, so now itís also my lucky racquet! I realize I canít use it foreveróthat itís going to wear out eventually because Iím using it so muchóbut itís been difficult to try and put the same weights on other racquets.
Iíll use that one as long as I can.
Your results this year, especially in the past two weeks, have put you in a great position to qualify for the WTA Tour Championships presented by Porsche. Is that an important goal for you for the rest of this year?
Definitely. I know Iím in the Top 8 right now, but thereís lots of tournaments before Los Angeles, and everyone is trying to get to the Championships. But if I made it, with all this tough competition, it would be something great for me.
Whether you qualify for LA or not, thereís plenty of reason to celebrate the year youíve had. How will you do that?
Iíll spend it with my family, including my grandparents, who live in Latvia. I donít get to see a lot of my family very much, because Iím traveling so much. But I know theyíre always supporting, watching my matches on television when they can. I really appreciate all the support my family gives me, so I like to share my success with them.