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By Scoop Malinowski | Monday, March 20, 2017

Elena Vesnina

"So many (people have) crashes and kind of bad moments. They were still believing in themself," says Elena Vesnina.

Photo credit: Billie Weiss/BNP Paribas Open

Elena Vesnina loves challenges.

That may explain Vesnina's positive disposition staring down a desert obstacle.

Watch: Vesnina Conquers Kuznetsova In Indian Wells Final

Vesnina battled back from a one-set, 1-4 deficit, fighting off scalding heat and three-time Indian Wells finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open final to capture the biggest singles title of her career.

The 30-year-old Vesnina collected her first Premier Mandatory crown, the champion’s check of $1.175 million and saw her ranking rise to a career-high No. 13 just one year after she was bounced out of Indian Wells qualifying ranked No. 86.

In a whirlwind week, Vesnina toppled world No. 2 Angelique Kerber, Australian Open finalist Venus Williams and Kristina Mladenovic before dispatching Kuznetsova in a three-hour epic that was a reaffirmation of the power of self belief. 

"I think these two weeks I was playing great," Vesnina told the media in Indian Wells. "But even when I had the bad moments, I was still winning. I was able to kind of turn it around. Like today, I was not playing, like, the best tennis in my life, like, in the first maybe two-and-a-half sets, but I was just fighting. That's what happened at the end." 

Author Scoop Malinowski caught up with the reigning Olympic gold medal doubles champion for this Biofile interview.

Height/Weight: 5-foot-7 3/4, 130 pounds.

Born on: August 1, 1986 in Lvov, Ukraine.

First Tennis Memory: “I remember when I was nine. And Yevgeny Kafelnikov came by practice. And I was practicing with his father at that moment. And he came for practice. And he was watching a little bit and he gave me some advices. I don’t remember what it was. He was kind of interested in that. And for me he was the best player in the world in that moment. And he was from my home city. He just won the French Open. Of course for me he was huge. Very inspiring moment for me.”

Tennis Inspirations: “I like challenges. I like competing against other players. And winning tournaments, raising the trophy, it’s something amazing. It’s kind of a high that you can get and winning as many matches as I can. Trying to get better. Trying to get stronger, faster, all things to be a better athlete on the court than I am right now.”

Last Book Read: “I’m reading now The Mark Arch De Triumph.”

Greatest Sports Moment(s): “Ooooh. Winning Olympics (2016). Winning Wimbledon in doubles. (Also won the 2013 French Open and the 2014 US Open tournaments with Ekaterina Makarova, and the 2016 Australian Open mixed doubles title with Bruno Soares.)”

Most Painful Moment: “Losing first round in singles, to be honest, bad at the U.S. Open in 2011. I thought I was pretty ready for the tournament and I was really looking forward to it. I felt I could do much better there but it was a ghost of me on the court. I couldn’t play my best tennis.”

Favorite Tournament: “Let me think…Indian Wells, French Open, Kremlin Cup.”

Current Car: “Audi Q5 (white).”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Vanilla and mango.”

Closest Tennis Friends: “There’s a few girls who are good friends but I can’t tell that they are really close friends, just good friends of tennis.”

Funniest Players Encountered: “Petkovic [smiles].”

Toughest Competitors Encountered: “Always tough to play against Vera Zvonareva. The Russian girls. They’re very competitive. And Fransesca Schiavone.”

Best You Ever Played: “When I beat Amelie Mauresmo a couple of years ago in finals.”

Funny Tennis Memory: “I remember I was playing one time in India and next court to me, Vania King actually – she put the banana on the chair and the monkey came and took it. And ball kids were trying to run after it to get the banana. And Vania was like, No I don’t need it. Leave it, give it to the monkey.”

Favorite Players To Watch: “From guys – Federer, Nalbandian, Tsonga.”

Favorite Sports Outside Tennis: “Ski. Soccer – I’m not playing – watching. Basketball.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “I like when people are tough. A lot of things coming at the same time and it feels like it’s over – when they keep fighting. Learning from their situations. Thinking, Have to be stronger mentally. And then, so many people when they were just starting their careers, they had so many crashes and kind of bad moments. They were still believing in themself. And they got it in the end.

(Any examples come to mind?) There’s a lot of examples. Even the greatest scientists, like Einstein, he wasn’t a very good student. From (music) composing also. Poets also. In the beginning of their careers, nobody knows about them. And then at the end they were like the greatest poets in the world. I know some Russians like this. There was, are composers everybody was saying he was a loser and then he like…(like Capriati epitomized this in tennis.) Yeah, she was. Those are the kind of people I admire.”

A long-time journalist and nationally-ranked USTA player, author Scoop Malinowski interviewed dozens of John McEnroe's former rivals and friends for his fifth booth, Facing McEnroe. To order Facing McEnroe, which retails for $9.99 or for more information on the book, please visit this Facing McEnroe link.


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