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« IW: Tommy Run IW: The Trivalry Resurfaces »
IW: Fairly Normal WTA Parents
Posted 03/21/2008 @ 6 :48 AM

When it comes to tennis parents, Sharapova's dad Yuri has the highest profile of anyone except perhaps Richard Williams.  Her mother, meanwhile, is conspicuous by absence. When talking about her mother at the Australian Open, Sharapova said she was the one who made her keep up her studies  in school and now arranges museum visits and sightseeing trips when travelling with her daughter during pre-tournament weeks.

The parents of the other women's semifinalists at Indian Wells receive far less attention, but all three have talked about them a little this week. Both Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic travel with their mothers, and both say dad is the indulgent one.

Ivanovic is reading a little Freud at the moment, which has not only given her some tips on how to analyze her on-court nerves, but also a few insights into the role of parents, Dragana and Miroslav. "This book I'm reading at the moment, it's really amazing.  Childhood has effect in forming the personality and how much it's important that you have actually nice control -- parents, they can show you what's right, what's wrong, you can build your morals and personality of it," she said. "So now looking back, my parents did a great job, and I really admire. I start thinking, it's lots of pressure now on me to be a good role model for my kids in the future."

Ivanovic tends to analyze things herself, she said. "I like sometimes to be philosophical, and my mom and coach they sometimes joke, 'just relax, just enjoy the dinner.'  I try to be too philosophical and talk too much."

Jankovic, meanwhile, turns to her mom for the deep thinking. "My mom had an interest in philosophy, and she's my main philosopher, you know, in my life," she said. "She's the one who's teaching me so many things, because she had the biggest influence in my life.  She has taught me so many things, and I think without her I wouldn't be where I am at the moment."

Like her daughter, Snezana Jankovic is an outgoing personality not afraid to socialize with a wide cross-section of fellow travellers on tour. What makes her mother a "very special tennis parent," said Jankovic, is that she never pushed her to play tennis. "Maybe that's the difference between my mom -- and my parents -- and maybe some of the others which push their kids to play the game and maybe become famous and make money and have a great life."

But when it comes to more material concerns -- like the recent purchase of a $4,000 handbag -- Jankovic knows to go to the other half of the parenting duo, her father Veselin. "With dads and daughters, I mean, he cannot resist not to buy me something really expensive," he laughed. "If I'm going after something, I bring my dad. 'Can dad go with us, mom?'

"I just bought a limited edition of [a] Louis Vuitton bag. I'm like, 'Dad, can you buy me that?'

"'Yes, of course no problem.'

"If I said to my mom [she would say,] 'Oh, now is not the time.' And for her, when she buys
something, it's always the right time!"

Ivanovic and Jankovic have a civil relationship but not a friendly one. One might think that the reservations are mostly on Jankovic's side, thanks to resentment of the attention given to Ivanovic's looks and her greater success on court the last nine months, while Ivanovic feels intimidated and cold-shouldered by the outgoing Jankovic.

The precise dynamic and reasons for the distance are likely to remain shrouded for a long time, but at least on Thursday, it was Ivanovic who came across as the more unyielding one when talking about their recent experience playing Fed Cup together. "We played doubles together and we work well on  the court.  We manage to win that match and we had fun out there.  But obviously we still have different interests and different personalities," she said. "So I can't say it made us become best friends, but, you know, just -- we did the job like we had to, and we played well in doubles."

"We are very, very different girls," observed Jankovic. "Ana is more quiet; I am a little bit more open.  I tend to speak my mind a lot, she's more kind of conservative.  She wouldn't say much, and if she would say, it would be very little.  That's what my opinion is about her. She's more of a shy girl.

"But that doesn't matter.  I mean, we're all individuals and those things don't matter with the tennis game."

Svetlana Kuznetsova, meanwhile, gets along with almost everyone. Yes, you read that right -- Kuznetsova is playing this event. In fact, she's the second seed and defending finalist, scheduled to take on Maria Sharapova in the semifinals.

How's she playing? Who knows? No one's been paying attention. We'll find out in the semifinal against Sharapova. (Last year, we didn't find out till the final against Daniela Hantuchova). The question of why some players attract attention and others don't is an abiding and complex mystery, but it usually involves poor performances in big matches and lack of persona.

But while's she a low-key presence, Kuznetsova is one of the most outgoing and well-liked players on the women's tour, unexpectedly friendly with the Williams sisters and quite familiar even with the reserved Justine Henin. A hip-hop loving Russian who'll walk around with braided hair or take part in a hitting session with another player's pre-teen daughter for fun, it's possible to engage her on a number of topics. Her parents are both involved in professional cycling, and when asked last year if she'd been born on the back of a bike, she didn't miss a beat. "No, on the front wheel."

Does that independent spirit stem from the fact that she had more parental freedom at a younger age than most of her peers?

Kuznetsova was 19 when when she won the US Open in 2004, and neither parent was in her box at the time. This week, she said her father Alexandr had never even thought of going to watch one of her pro matches till after she won the US Open in 2004 -- "He see me play on TV every time I play.  He never saw me play live on the tournament," she said. "He saw me play when I was like 14 in St. Petersburg when I play championship of the city. He wanted to come in 2004 in Kremlin Cup in Moscow. I'm like, 'Dad, you know, I play tennis already since I been seven... 12 years, 13 years.  I'm fine. Just don't bother.'

"First of all, he's very busy.  He is obsessed about his [cycling] team all his life.  Like, I mean, obsessed in a good way.  He's too professional.  He needs to control everybody, how they train, how they do.

"He's building track in St., Petersburg, and then he has to control his team.  I've always been on my own with my mom.  My dad always called my mom every day and check how much I was training.  He was still there, you know -- he's not there, but he's there."

Eventually, Kuznetsova's mother Galina also stopped travelling with her, which may actually have helped her results. "She gets so nervous, my mom.  Like sometimes I remember I was playing and she would start jumping up and down and I would like miss easy ball and go like that."

She doesn't feel their physical presence is really that important. "When they care for you, it's more than enough."

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very intersting post, Kamashi.
not all parents are Youri and Richard! I liked the bit about Ana reading freud. hope she can learn how to handle her neves and pressure in the big matches.
Vamos Rafa

Yuri as well as Maria freaks me out. They apear that so cold and mean. Maria never smiles. What really suprised me is when she beat Daniela the other night she started yelling; "thats right, this is my home, my home." She looked more like a boxer than a wta tennis player. To me she is like a mutant anymore.

hey, becky why so very envy with maria?everybody has own characteristics...u cant please anybody!!!stop harassing maria shes smile a lot when she practice her games..she just keep on focusing her games...thats why she suceeded a lot in her career not just tennis but also in modeling...

Sharapova and her father are money-obsessed freaks. The wusses at WTA are too scared of IMG to shut her screeching up. It was not permissible to make noises on the court when Seles was playing.What's changed?

Lucy, you know it is possible to dislike someone simply because you do not care for their behavior and personality. If Maria were unattractive would you still cry "jealous". I personally don't care for Maria either, but I do like other equally pretty and talented players. Looks have nothing to do with it.

Good article..........I'm starting to warm up more to Kuzzy!

I loved this article! I had never thought that Kuznetsova was one of the most outgoing girls on the tour...!
Vamos Rafa!

whatever people say about maria..i will always support her. shes a great player and very focus in every match she play. shut up sharapova hater

.. all of a sudden the community transformed from adults to 12 year olds.

but great article, especially on kuzzy. i would've never thought she was outgoing from the way the media and people describe her. would you compare her likeability among the tour to, say, clijsters?

To Shriekapova groupies: keep drinking the Kool-Aid, it does wonders for your grammar and your room-temperature IQ. Then again, why would you ever need either one...

Great article - Kuzzie seems like a good sport, and she definitly manage to get along with many different personalities on tour.

Thanks so much for the post Kamakshi! I've been a big Kuzzy fan since watching one of her post-match interviews in which someone passed along that Federer sometimes watched her matches. It was such a surprise to her that her usual all-business presser demeanor vanished and she turned into the smiling, adorable, good-natured person you describe.

I also remember that when she went crazy with the braids last year, she sought out the Williamses for advice on taking care of them, which also struck me as awfully cute.

Also: those legs! ;-)

It's an interesting dynamic between Ivanovic and Jankovic. Ivanovic is shy? I love how Jankovic knows how to manouver the parents. This is the first time they have played each other since playing doubles together for Fed Cup. It should be an interesting match.

I'd like to know more about the dynamic among the Russian players. I know there is friction with Sharapova and the rest. However, Sharapova seems more American to me than Russian.

Tennis Fan,
Ana/Jelena last encounter was a good battle in LA where it took 3 sets to decide it with Ana rallying for the win.

Sharapova is a brilliant player. She is the most tenacious player on the tour. Very reminiscent of Seles in her determination. She is fierce!

sharapova needs to GET OVER HERSELF..seriously shes not all that. i think shes overly hyped by the press, by her fans, and by people who think shes great. stop hyping up a mediocre player and a mediocre-looking girl.

I think Yuri is an evil person who is cruel. I'll still continue to support Maria she's still an awesome player

hey lucy I am just posting my opinion on her. I don't care about her modeling career to me almost anyone looks better with makeup so she is nothing out of this world she is cute and that is it.I don't know if any of you have seen Henin with hair done and make up she looks way better than on court. TO me Bartoli's and Sharapova's dads are a little too much. Maria is a solid player not as solid as Seles yet(who won 9 slams in 4 years)

Personally I think that Yuri might be a little intense but that dosen't really affect Maria. She is a great player. And I think that on the court she might appear cold but she is just focusing and blocking out outside distractions. I think it's good strategy. But people have their own opinions so of well.

I don't understand why people have such dislike of Sharapova. There are people who inherit millions.
Sharapova worked hard to be successful. And with 3 majors before she turns 21, she's extremely successful. Any player, no matter what they look like, will be very wealthy with Sharapova's results.

Why all the unecssary hate for maria? despite her dads actions, maria has worked VERY hard to get were she is today. back off. wow, I thought ana and jelena were more "friendly". I don't know much about Svetlana. I do know she's a underestimated player. Glad to see she's so down to earth.

After Yuri did that throat-slashing motion, I thought the WTA would ban him from attending matches. And I don't like Henin at all, but I was offended by that gesture. And I still am.

excel.lent i genial
vinga Rafa

Maria comes across as cold, all business. Just like the NBA player who only gives out cliches and canned statements in the pressers and interviews. I don't care for these players. Someone who can have fun, give witty comments and honest opinions, oh and plays really well, gets my support. Of course Sharapova is a top player, she just seems disingenuous.

The thing that really stands out about Kuzzy for me was when she lost a tight 3 set final to Henin in Sydney this year. I work as part of the ground crew and standing on court, Kuzzy was obvivously devasted but as she stood next to Justine waiting for the presentation she was smiling and laughing and talking to her, looking so proud for her it was a beautiful moment not captured for tv.

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