On the courts of Olympiyskiy, the tennis players keep practicing for the VTB Kremlin Cup. The tournament press service met Ekaterina Makarova and discussed her success in doubles, the Russian national team and her plans for the off season.
This year, you have finally become No.1 in the doubles ranking, as for singles – you have had great victories over the Top 10 players, however, according to the overall stats, this season has been far from successful. What do you think the reason is?
I don’t know. I would like to know that either. In fact, I started this season with another coach and trained during the off season with him as well. This was my goal – to try something new, something different after 10 years with Evgeniya Manyukova. But I did not last long; it was about three months in total, I guess. I was playing by my own for a while and then I agreed with Evgeniya Manyukova because I realized that she knows me better and she can find the best approach, and therefore, it is with her that I can achieve the best results. So, I think that it is because of these changes and because the other coach tried to change my technique a little, I needed some time to “polish it off” and eventually, the season has not been the most successful. However, in doubles, Lena [Vesnina] and I showed very good results, and it led to us becoming No. 1 in the rankings right on the eve of my thirtieth birthday. And then, another great thing happened, we learned that Lena was pregnant. As for me, I kept playing in doubles and I am satisfied with this season; there were ups and lows, but you cannot do without them in sports and you have to deal with it anyway.
When you finally became the leader of the women’s doubles ranking, did you feel something special?
You know, there were no special feelings. You always think that something should happen and change, but the life was going as it was, nothing changed. Although, it was mentally important – to reach another goal, and that was making me feel great.
You have been playing successfully in duo with Lucie Hradecka lately. How did you decide to pair up?
It was spontaneous. She wrote to me after Wimbledon that she wanted to pair up for the tournament in Cincinnati and the US Open. Although I knew that she had just returned to play after an injury and that she had been playing only for a couple of months, I thought that her style of play fitted me: she plays active, aggressive, serves well. I was not hoping much, I did not set great goals, I just wanted to play in doubles. And we made a very strong team. She keeps saying that she is very grateful to me that I agreed to pair up with her, that I believed in her. She knows that it is very hard to play together with someone who missed the past eight months of the Tour. In fact, it really looked like I believed in her and she felt it, and we are doing great together.
Does her style resemble Elena Vesnina’s one?
Absolutely. Of course, there is no one better than Lena. We speak one language, we have a kind of internal intuitive teamplay, we understand each other without words, we understand which combinations we are about to play. Lucie and I needed some time to adjust, to understand which combinations are her favorite, which are mine. We did not have the teamplay, however, her style resembles Lena’s one.
Do you have any agreement for the next season?
No, we don’t.
You have said on numerous occasions that you are “a patriot to the skin”. You are an Olympic champion, you have defended the colors of the national flag many times playing at the FedCup. What do you think, why the national team is so down in the Europe/Africa I Zone?
Yes, we are really down right now. You know, the FedCup is a very unpredictable tournament. Sometimes, even the countries where the tennis is not on the top show amazing results. When the tournament is played, the players show their best tennis and then cannot show such result at any tournament during the whole year. I think, there is also some element of misfortune: things did not go as well as they used to go before: we were lucky at some points, sometimes we had comfortable schedule, sometimes – good draws. This time it was not like that at all. We had the best team, the best we could get that moment. The press demanded a lot from us, they had excessive confidence that we should win, because our opponents were the teams of the Netherlands and Latvia… But this is sport. I think that Russia is a strong country, we will rise up because we have a lot of good young girls. We will win the FedCup again for sure.
And will you keep playing for the national team?
Right now, I cannot answer this question.
What are your considerations about Igor Andreev, the new coach of the national team?
I have hope and trust in him. I believe that it is good for the women’s team to have a male coach and captain. He should know how to balance this tandem. It is the individual sport after all and we do not work in a team often. And there are different situations, the girls are quick-tempered and some of them can be very nervous before the match, and the man can look at such situation differently, to soften a bit, to eliminate excessive pressure. I think that the girls are more responsible than the guys. But he has to get more experience for sure. I believe that it is not so easy to become a captain when you have not trained anyone in your life. All in all, he is doing huge job now: he needs to understand each player, to find approach to everyone. He visits all major tournaments, learns new things about players. I think that this is correct.
Have you received an invitation from him to play for the national team?
Yes, I have.
At the VTB Kremlin Cup, the environment is homey, the audience supports you. Do you feel this support? Do you play for the spectators?
For me this tournament is really homey because I am a native of Moscow. This tournament is always exciting for me. I think that I take too much responsibility which I should not do. We play for the audience absolutely. It is always a pleasure when a lot of people come to support us. The scream and are not shy to do so because it helps us a lot, we are on a roll and start playing amazing tennis. That is why support is extremely important for us. So, come and support us!
What are your plans for the off season?
Russia – the Altay again, for the sixth time. I really like that place, it has unbelievable energy. That is why I will go there. I plan to make this off season a bit longer, about a month. I used to have maximum three-weeks rest before. And I also would like to go to Europe for three-four days, however, I have not decided where to go yet. This might be a place where I have not been to, or the place where I have been to but have not seen anything because of a tournament.
You mentioned in one of the interviews that you started to read Maria Sharapova’s book. Have you read it? Did you like it?
Well, I am not impressed. I expected something more.
Do you think you could write an autobiography?
Of course, I could. I have a very successful and exciting career.
And would you like to?
At the moment, I would not want to share my emotions or secrets with the public. Perhaps, when I finish my career, I would want to share, to open it. Everything is possible, I don’t know.