Monday, December 28, 2009

Europe again!

I thought I was going to be in Europe for a few weeks, but it became almost 2 months!
I started in Moscow, then Vienna, Ismaning, back to Vienna, Bratislava, back to Vienna, Moscow. WOW! To long!

I will tell you right away that out of all those places I really enjoyed Vienna and of course being with my family!
Ismaning, Germany is a small and very expensive city close to Munich. I couldn't figure out why is it so expensive until saw a big new football arena just 2 miles away. The Aliance Arena, home of the famous soccer team of Bayern Munich. So that's why! It's a small soccer town! Other then that I don't know what people would be doing there! And the bad fall weather didn't help my impression of Ismaning. Little to say- I am not be going back there! No disrespect to people who live there!

It is only 45 min away from Vienna however its a different world! Even though Slovakia is a European Union country now, it still feels like it needs a lot of improvement!
There is a lot of crime and leaving the car on the street over night is a big risk. We left our car in parking a garage and still lost a chrome tire! And one of the players (Sandra Klemenschits) got robbed of everything she had with her.
But I must admit, Bratislava's center is very nice and the food was very good and inexpensive!

One of my favorite cities in Europe! And not because my boyfriend is from there but because there is a lot to do and see. During my previous visits I got to see lots of historical parts of Vienna and did it all by foot. This time I have decided to try something new-rent a bike and ride around Vienna!
It's a great system, bikes are parked all around Vienna and by simply creating a profile for yourself and entering your credit card information you get to rent a bike for 1 euro an hour and return it at a different city location.

In the evenings my boyfriend and I usually took walks in the city center. It was a month before Christmas and that meant Christmas Markets were opening all around Vienna. So we would
walk from one to another and drink some punch or snack on fresh bread with home made cheeses and meats! Yummy!

One of the days we decided to research traces of Da Vinci Code in Vienna! It took us almost the whole day to find the church that held mosaic replica of "Last Supper" and when we finally found it I was very impressed by it!

The church was empty and silent when we walked in.
So I whispered to my boyfriend: "Where is it?"
"Here"-he whispered back. I turned to my left and saw a huge mosaic of the "The Last Supper" in front of me. I didn't expect it to be so big! I stood in silence taking it in. I wonder how long it took to make it?
The original Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" is located in Milan, Italy at Santa Maria delle Grazie dining hall. After the original mosaic, Vienna is the only place that has the one to one replica of "The Last Supper."

After Vienna I flew home to Moscow to visit my family for a few days. As always my brother would pick me up from the airport. Usually it would take us an hour to get to his house
But this time it was different. We were in traffic for five hours! It took me less time to fly from Vienna to Moscow!
The next day my brother drove me to my parents house outside of Moscow where I stayed four days.
As always I had nice time being home with my parents. However this time around the weather didn't cooperate with our plans being more outside. But I went to my parents concert, did I tell you they sing? Yes, they do. And they are quite good at it.
I also spent some time helping my mom doing house stuff and looking forward to returning to Florida, to warm sunny weather, because all I saw in Europe was rain, low dark clouds and cold.
So when it was time to fly back to America I was excited to go!


Before Moscow I went to Mexico City, Mexico. I love visiting Mexico, I always have great time there.
Usually, during the tournaments I stay at the hotel, but because of lots of kidnappings, and swine flu I asked to stay with a family. Families in Mexico are always friendly and make you fell like you a part of their family.

My "Mom" for a week was Graciela or Grace in English. And although she spoke English I asked her to speak Spanish to me so I could practice it. ( I speak four languages: English, Spanish, Italian and of course Russian).
Grace and I got along very well, speaking about everything in this life. I also told her my life story, how I became a professional tennis player and all the hurdles I had to overcome along the way. Grace listen with tears in her eyes as I was telling her how I got out of Russia and how my family struggled during the Communist Era. And when I told my parents that I must leave Russia in order for to have a future. When I was finished Grace asked if I ever thought about writing a book. "Maybe one day I will"-I answered.
My story is one of many incredible life stories on tennis tour that should be told, so maybe one day I will share it with everyone.

Smaller ITF tournaments are usually not well organized, but people in Mexico really care about their organization. The tournaments are usually held at private clubs and people really come together to put up a great event. All week long we had everything from ball kids to TV commentators.

Mexico City is in high altitude so if you are not in good shape and try to play a long point your lungs will feel it big time! Even for me it was hard to breath for a few days, not talking about putting the ball in the court. But I did ok in the tournament getting to quarters in singles and doubles final.

During the week, my host family took me to different Mexican restaurants where I got to try all kinds of Mexican food. And it was great! I must say though, I was very courageous to eat
Mexican food the way mexican people do. And I must say it was SPICY!!!!
Here are some pics of the foods I enjoyed during my stay in Mexico City.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Back to USA!

And I am back to USA!
Since my last trip I spent time home in Florida relaxing a bit, training and trying to get rid of remaining symptoms of bronchitis I suffered from the whole European trip.
I played LA on the way home, where I flew in from Istanbul (the last tournament in my European and I guess a bit Asian tour).The decision to play Istanbul was made at the last moment, a night before the tournament start.

I was feeling very sick and haven't hit in fours days. But even though I didn't hit for a while and kept coughing like crazy I did well there. I qualified, beating good players and even coming back from being 3 match points down in my past round of quali. I also got to play doubles, getting in at the last moment with a partner that was also picked at the last moment. I got some points and enjoyed myself. And what not to enjoy! When I stayed in 5 star hotel, ate all day at 5 star buffet and even had time to visit Istanbul a bit. Of course I didn't go alone, I went with two other players.
We visited The Grand Bazaar! So much excitement and anticipation of something GRAND, but when we got there....well...we were not so impressed.
There were rows and rows of stuff! Some was not good quality and some very expensive. And because most of sellers were men they didn't like bargaining with three young women dressed in short shorts. Although we got lots of compliments which came in some sort of invitation to their shops. The best ones were: " Did you come from heaven?" " Are you miss Universe?" and
being call Angelina Jolie and Julia Roberts.
I haven't bought anything at the Bazaar, even though I saw some nice pottery and lamps. I was just happy to find the way out of there, thinking that for me, China is still number one for shopping at the markets and bargaining!

After Istanbul I decided (also at the last moment)to fly to LA and play a big tournament there. I knew I was tired and battling bad cough but I was happy to be playing well again and wanted to continue in this good path.
I bought tickets, reserved hotel and left Istanbul on time thinking I was going to arrive to LA just on time to have a day off and practice too.
But the first hiccup started in Paris where my flight was canceled! "Ok"-I said-" I just fly the next day.
The next day I got to Chicago late and missed my flight to LA. I asked to put me on the next one. It was full. And the flight after and the next day. The only way was to fly to Las Vegas. And from there to LA. "Ok"-I said-" it will take longer but I still get there a night before my match." Haha!
Not a chance! My flight from Chicago to Las Vegas was late and I missed my LA connection. It was the last flight of the day and I was offered to fly at 7am next morning! I wasn't even offered a free hotel room. Just a discount. And there was no food because it was 11.30pm. I was trying to stay calm, it was kinda easy, because I was SO TIRED!
The next day, deprived on sleep but still trying to stay strong I took a flight to LA crossing my fingers to get there on time to play my match!
I got to LA on time and tournament transportation dropped me off at the tennis club 3 hours before my match. One word "Zombie", that's how I felt!
I played Melanie Oudin, who two weeks later got to the quarters of US Open, I had a lot of chances to win the first set but didn't use them. And when the second set started my body just said "enough is enough".
That night I just dropped in bed fully dressed at 7pm and slept for 14 hrs straight. I don't think I ever had such a long travel, even the Bali trip was shorter then this!