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January 10, 2011

Vera Zvonareva


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How was your off-season?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Off-season? Pretty good. I got some rest in and I got some practice in. Yeah, ready to go. Ready to start a new season.

Q. Did you do anything differently training-wise?
VERA ZVONAREVA: A little bit. Maybe a little bit different. We tried to make few adjustments. Nothing tremendously different. I was working out a lot in the gym, then quite a lot of time on the court as well.
I stayed in Florida, like previous years. I wouldn't say I've done something really, really different. Just few things that we were working on, and that's about it.

Q. Coming of the best season of your career, have you set goals for this year?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I think the most important goal for me is to stay healthy the whole year. So to find that right balance between pushing myself hard and still recovering well.
So I think for me that's the most important goal, is to, yeah, keep myself always at my best without going too much up and downs.
So try to keep that good level of my tennis from the beginning of the year until the last tournament.

Q. Do you think that was the secret last year to a better, higher ranking at the end of the year?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I think there is no one secret that made me, you know, climb up the rankings. I think it's about maturity and experience, and that I was able to put all those things together.
Of course, you know, I think I was taking it a bit easier on myself. I was coming back after the surgery, and I had really no expectations. I was just happy to be back on the court. I think that's the most important thing.
You have to be happy about what you do; you have to be happy about playing and being there on the court. That's about finding that right balance. That's what I will try to do this year. Then we will see where it's going to take me. (Smiling.)

Q. Is it possible to be No. 2 and not think about being No. 1?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I don't think about it. You know, it's not important. Of course everyone wants to win a Grand Slam and everyone wants to achieve ranking No. 1. But I also know that the most important thing for me is to go out there and try to win every single match I play in. If I do it, I will become No. 1 and I will win a Grand Slam.
So that's just something that will come. The most important is that I - no matter what - I have to keep working hard. But the at the same time, to find that right balance and be able to perform my best in every single match.
I have a strong belief in myself. If I do play my best tennis in every match, I can beat anyone on the other side of the net.

Q. Is it more important to you to win a Grand Slam or to be No. 1?
VERA ZVONAREVA: The most important is to try to win every single match I play in. That's the thing. Of course I want to do the west I can in the Grand Slams. Of course I want to find my best tennis in the Grand Slams rather than maybe some other events.
But no matter what, you know, I'm a tennis player. I'm very competitive. No matter what, I want to win every single tournament I'm playing at. You know, that's something you can't take away from me. That's why I have to be, you know, patient with myself, and, you know, keep myself healthy throughout the year.

Q. Looking ahead to this week and also Melbourne who do you think are the most likely people to win, apart from yourself?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, it's very tough competition right now in women's tennis, and I think women's tennis is at a very high level. You really cannot predict who's going to win the tournament. There are so many girls that deserve that.
I think it's going to be very interesting and exciting competition. Whoever is able to play their best tennis in the upcoming week or two will probably win in those weeks.
At the moment, it's very hard to say who's playing really well. We're just starting the season, and everyone is sort of trying to find the rhythm. You know, everyone has got maybe just one match behind their belt. It's really too early to say something.
I think we will see who's really getting up there throughout the next, you know, week or two. And then getting into the second week of Grand Slam, then we will see who is at their best at that moment.

Q. What do you think would be the perfect preparation for you this week and going into Melbourne?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Definitely get couple of matches in, you know, a couple of tough ones in. You know, even one match is good enough if I can get one tough match. Two or three, even better.
But, you know, the most important is just to test myself in these conditions where it's a little bit hotter, windier. Obviously the courts are a bit different from where I been training for the past months. So just get used to the conditions that will be -- and get that, you know, tough match against a tough opponent. That probably will be the best preparation for me.

Q. Do you enjoy playing in Australia?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I do, yeah. I think I made my first Grand Slam semifinal here in Melbourne, and that's something, you know always will stay in my memory.
Of course I haven't done great in Sydney over the past few years. I had to, I remember, pull out last year, and couldn't play the year before. Always something was not going right.
So, you know, I will try to do my best this week. I will try definitely to improve my result and try to play some good tennis this week as well.
Then we will see what's going to happen.

Q. Last year you got to two Grand Slam finals. This time you're going in probably seeded to each the final. How is this affecting your mindset? Do you enjoy the extra pressure?
VERA ZVONAREVA: There is no extra pressure for me. I think I'm just enjoying it. You know, it's great to be in that position. That's what you work hard for the past few years. Now I'm going on the court and I have to always prove myself.
I am really enjoying the challenge. I can really push myself when there is a challenge. Sometimes when not there is no challenges it's hard for me to find that extra push.
Right now I believe I showed some good tennis in past year. I've done some great results. So I deserve to be up there. I'm just enjoying this moment.
In my career -- everyone will face some ups and downs. If I'm up there right now, I just try to take the best out of that moment. I keep working hard and pushing myself even harder to become even better.

Q. There have been so many great Russian players in the last decade. I imagine it's sometimes hard to get the spotlight a little bit in Russia. How has that affected your development, having so many other great players?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Me personally, I'm not the person who really needs the spotlight or that someone is talking about me, so doesn't really affect me that much. I'm really happy that we actually got so many players back home, because I think it is great for our country. It's great for tennis in Russia. I'm really happy for the girls when they're doing really good.
Well, actually, this year was, you know, first time for me that I got a Female Player of the Year Award back home. It's been a great moment to be recognized in your own country.
You know, I really felt proud of that moment, because like you said, it is very difficult in Russia. There are so many great players. You know, when someone back home recognizes what you've done for the country, it's a great pleasure and it makes me happy.
But overall, you know, I'm not really thinking about how many Russian players are out there. I'm just trying to play my best tennis and trying my best no matter who's on the other side of net, either Russian girl or not. For me, it's just another opponent.
I try to win every match I'm playing. If it doesn't work, well, I try to go back on the court, work hard, and improve myself. That's it.

Q. So there isn't a standard that's set in Russia that has made you strive harder?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Yeah, I think we've got some great competition while I was still playing in juniors, because we knew that you can only start traveling and competing on the professional tour if you were one the best ones, otherwise they went pick you, they won't help, they won't choose you.
So we have, you know, that fighting mindset that, Okay, I got to be one of the top 3 in my country to be able to go somewhere and play big tournaments. I think that made us tougher.
On one hand we've got a great competition between us, but on the other hand we also support each other a lot. I think that's great to have. You don't really feel alone at tournaments. You can speak your own language and hang out with your friends and play doubles and just have fun and practice together. It is something special. I really enjoy it.

Q. You mentioned about playing your best tennis at Grand Slams. Apart from the obvious, what is different about a Grand Slam for two weeks? Is it pressure? Are there other aspects to it?
VERA ZVONAREVA: Well, first of all, it's an excitement playing in a Grand Slam. But of course also it is a long event, two weeks compared to other ones. You really have to improve day by day because everyone is improving match by match. You really have to raise I think the level of your game to go even farther and farther, to be there in the second week.
I don't know, Grand Slams make great competition for everybody. Definitely it is very special when you can make it to the second week and compete against the world's best players in a Grand Slam.
You know, at the same time, you want to play your best tennis in the first or second rounds, of course, to be able to go through. But once the tournament goes on, you really want to produce your best tennis at the last stages of the Grand Slam.
That's where you have to learn a lot. You have to know yourself well. You have to know how hard you want to work throughout those two weeks. What exactly do you have to do to bring your best in the last stages of the Grand Slams.
It comes with experience and maturity and, you know, just learning a lot about yourself. You cannot sometimes play your best tennis at the last stages of the Grand Slam when you're still very young. Only few people can do it.
Once you've got that experience, you can really, you know, focus on that and change things around.

Q. What do you think you need to do differently, if anything, to get a breakthrough Grand Slam?
VERA ZVONAREVA: I think I tend to work a lot and I tend to work hard because I really want to improve myself. I really feel like I need to improve more. You know, as the tournament goes on, you really want to play better and better.
I think sometimes I maybe overtrain, and sometimes it becomes very physically tiring for me, mental and physically, you know, to be able to go two weeks, even more, without even one day off. Also playing and doubles and all that, it is very tiring.
So I just have to learn how to pace myself and how to make sure that I'm fresh. Every day I wake up and I'm fresh and feel like I can go play a match for four hours if it's needed.
I think that's what I've been lacking a little bit in the past. I tend to push myself so hard that I run out of gas when you have to play few days in a row. I think now I'm much better. I just know myself much better and how to build my training when you have those days between the matches.
Or if I do have a play the doubles match, that I don't train a lot those days. I just go out there and play and try to really raise the level of my game by just doing some light training, not pushing too hard.

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