Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Saying goodbye.

Wow, where do I start? A lot has happened in the past few months.

As you probably know, I have played the U.S. Open playoffs and lost in the finals. It was heart breaking to loose in the last match. But even more heart breaking to loose the way I did. I didn't show up for a match. I had no focus and no energy. But I have to give credit to my opponent, she played better than I expected.
After the match, I bought a ticket to go home. I was not going to sleep anyway, so might as well take a red-eye.

Back home, I sat on the couch not knowing what to do. My dream was to win the U.S. Open series and retire in New York at the U.S. Open. But the dream was not coming true, so I had to come up with plan B. But I was to tired and depressed to come up with a decision.
Seeing me down, Sascha had a great idea. "Why don't we take a trip?"-he offered. "But where do would we go?"-I asked. "Lets just take a car and drive. The road will take us somewhere."-he answered. So the morning after my arrival home, we packed our bags and drove in the direction North on I-95.

The first day we drove for 5.5hrs and stopped in Tallahassee. And I got to see the capital of Florida. The second stop was New Orleans, which I loved. We only spent one night there, but I loved all the antique stores, restaurants and historic buildings.
Than we visited Mobile, which is a cute city too. And our fourth and final stop was Houston, where some of Sascha's family lives.
The week has gone by fast, but we had so much fun. We went out dancing, altered my wedding dress, slept in, I even got to act as an employee of a rug store. I only lasted an hour but had a taste of how many people in this world work at the office every day. And for someone like me, who is physically active all day every day, one hour at the office seemed like an eternity.

When I got back home, I felt refreshed and rested, but still no decision made.
One morning, while waiting for my tea water to boil, I called my mom. From her first word I understood that something was wrong. And when she started crying after another word, my heart sank. My dad was loosing his eye sight.
He woke up one morning and couldn't see. A trip to a doctor showed that he lost his right eye to glaucoma, and his left eye had 90% chance of going blind too. The doctor scheduled an emergency surgery trying to save his left eye.
I have imagined my father, and in what kind of stress he is. And my poor mother, who just came out of the hospital herself.

I was always my "daddy's little girl" and the connection I have with my father is incredible. He was the one who spent hours with me, trying to explain math to me. He introduced me to tennis, without knowing the name of the sport. And when I knew my daddy was coming home from a business trip, I would spend hours near the door, waiting for him. He always brought me "fox's bread." It was just a small piece of black bread, but it meant everything to me. Because it was from my daddy.
Needless to say, four hours later, after speaking to my mom on the phone, I was on the way to Russia. I was lucky to have some extra miles saved, otherwise buying a ticket at the last second would be very expensive.

Going to Russia is always exciting, but stressful. For the first three days I usually have a cultural shock and than become one of the Russians. But this time around my "cultural shock" has lasted the whole 10 days. I found Russia more expensive and stressful. And I am not even talking about traffic!

One day I went with my brother to his new construction site. Where we found a group of very distressed people. When asked what was wrong, they all started screaming at the same time. Only after 20 minutes we managed to figure out what was happening.
Apparently there is an army station near the house development. It has a working satellite transmitter. Every time the transmitter turns on it sends radioactive waves through air. And these waves have affected some families living close to the transmitter. They said their TV has turned on and off by itself. And family members had the worst headaches.

My brother managed to find out what was going on. That these people were paid to make so much noise, because someone had an eye on the land the transmitter was on. The only legal way to remove it would be if people complained. Than the land would be free for someone to buy it and build on it. Only in Russia!
Spending time in Russia really makes me appreciate my life in Florida. Yes, each country has different rules, and some of them may seem strange. But there is no country like Russia!

But not all is bad about Russia. I still have friends and family back there and I miss them a lot. When we get together, we have these amazing dinners. Table covered with food! Great food! You see, Russian people may seem to be distant and cold. But when they get to know you and trust you, there are the best people in the world. Who would give you their last dollar if they knew you were in trouble!

While in Russia, I decided to fly to Quebec and retire there. It's always been one of my favorite tournaments, but unfortunately with all the worries I had for my parents, I entered "main draw only" and didn't get into singles qualifying nor doubles. Every year I played that tournament, there were extra spots in the draw. But not this year! I saw it as a sign. And decided I would play some more until I felt like it's the right time to stop.

And so I did.
I actually had fun practicing this time around. After not hitting for a while I kinda missed it. But after two tournaments I've remembered all the reasons why I didn't enjoy playing anymore.
And after four tournaments I have decided to make Phoenix, AZ my last tournament. I was at peace with my decision. I knew it was time. " When your opponent starts looking like a nice girl, you know it's time to retire"-I joked with some of the players.

Bunny and Missy, were the tournament supervisors in Phoenix. Ironically they were the supervisors at the first pro-tournament I've ever played. Again, I took it as a sign.
At the player party I was presented with a huge retirement cake. I wanted to cry, but a smile took over tears. And than, after I heard myself saying goodbye to a sport that has been my life, I felt a big weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew this was it!

I came to United States with $500 dollars in my pocket and a dream to become a pro-tennis player. And some years later I made over a million dollars in prize money and played over 25 Grand Slams. It was not an easy road. It took me through many different countries before I found my place in this world. But my dream couldn't have come true if it wasn't for many people who have helped me along the way. And from the bottom of my heart I would like to say "Thank you" to all of them. You know who you are.

I worked hard and I gave it my all. I've been through things in life, many people don't go through in three lifetimes. I went though poverty, depression, anorexia, bulimia, insomnia and an abusive relationship. I beat it all! And living through all that, made me a better person!
It made me a survivor!

And as I dance at my wedding, this December. I know, I won't regret anything! After all, I lived my dream- I was one of the best tennis players in the world! And I made it there on my own!
Now it's time to look into the future and see what kind of new challenges it will bring! It's time to find a different dream and make it a reality!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alina!

    I just wanted to congratulate you on your career, and wish you the best on your new upcoming life.

    Nice shout out to Quebec City, where I am, and I always will remember some great memories of you: that classic match against my friend Steph (you made me cry that day!) is one of them.

    You might also remember that one year, while being in the semis with Poutchek in doubles, you participated in a small exhibition match with the ballboys. I was there, we played a game of 'ping pong', you decided to drop shot, I ran for my life, fell face first in the net and started bleeding from everywhere. I felt so embarassed!

    Have a great wedding and hopefully we'll get to see more of you in the tennis world.

    Charles David, Quebec City