Q: Russia are the most successful Fed Cup by BNP Paribas team of the last decade with four titles – in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 – and the only country that currently has four players in the WTA Top 20. What makes women’s tennis so powerful in Russia?
A: We could put together three line-ups. Some 13-17 Russian tennis players get in Grand Slam draws and play within the Top 100. We have a solid school and a variety of choice, that’s why we can vary our line-up. With the right financing we could have won not just four Fed Cups in ten years, but as many as seven trophies.
Q: Why does women’s tennis seem to be in better shape than men’s tennis in Russia nowadays?
A: For many objective reasons. It’s easier to make it in women’s tennis than in men’s tennis. It takes three years for a girl to break through to the tennis elite, while for a boy it takes as long as seven years to get there. Girls have better competition and they achieve results faster. Most of our coaches tend to train girls. As a result, our women’s tennis is stronger.
Q: What will be the key factors that will define this Fed Cup Final? Is there any specific match that you regard as crucial?
A: The specific shape of a specific player will be the decisive factor. Everyone is tired now, everyone has injuries. So players of both teams will feel sort of feverish, the specific form on the eve of the tie will be the key factor.
Q: How do you assess the chances for both teams in this tie, 50-50 or do you see Russia as favourites?
A: Judging by the latest results I would say the Czech team looks the favourite, as our girls haven’t won anything over the course of the last month.
Q: Is the team 100% decided, or may there be a last minute surprise?
A: We can anticipate surprises only in case of injuries.
Q: Do you think that the atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow can play a decisive role in the tie?
A: The support of the home crowd could become just an additional stimulus, and one that can add to the specific form of a specific player.
Q: Vera Zvonareva played a key role in the semifinals and is achieving good results on the tour. Could she make the difference in the Final?
A: Again, it will all depend on the specific form of Petra (Kvitova) and our girls when they step on court during the tie. The strength of both teams is pretty much even.
Q: How do you see Kuznetsova´s current form? Will she recover the amazing level that made her win two Grand Slam titles?
A: We’ll try to make sure she gets back on top of her shape because her latest results at the Kremlin Cup showed she is struggling.
Q: This year has seen the confirmation of Petra Kvitova’s talent after her triumph at Wimbledon. Is she the biggest threat of the Czech team?
A: A win at a Slam testifies to the high level of one’s game. Kvitova plays a fast game with pace, no doubt about it, but I wouldn’t say she has an edge over the said Zvonareva. It will all depend on the specific shape of the players.
Q: Maria Sharapova has only played three Fed Cup ties in her career, but has announced that will return to the team for next year’s first round. Do you see her playing regularly in Fed Cup in the future?
A: It’s tough for her because she lives in America. The tournament schedule doesn’t allow us to normally prepare our players for Fed Cup ties. She plays most of her tournaments on the American continent, hence the inevitable problems with acclimatising and other problems related to her preparation (for Fed Cup ties).
Q: Another Russian player, Dinara Safina, has been in the headlines recently because of her possible retirement. Are you in contact with her? Do you see her competing again?
A: I know she is fanatically devoted to tennis. It will all depend on her health. If everything is OK, I wouldn’t rule out her comeback.
Q: You have won the Fed Cup four times and the Davis Cup on two occasions. What skills make a good captain? How do you cope with running both teams at the same time?
A: The team captain, on top of good coaching skills, must also have patience and be a good communicator with players and their personal coaches.
Q: In terms of managing different personalities within one group, which of the two teams do you find easier to captain?
A: The women’s team. Here I have fewer problems because we have a deep bench. Mentally it’s also easier to manage the women. It’s harder for me to deal with our men. Due to the poor choice of players their level of preparation often times is not up to the level of the specific tie. So we often have to make our players play when they are not on top of their shape. For example, in the latest tie versus Brazil only one player was physically fit, the other three were injured. Yet we did manage to win.