Saturday, June 25, 2011

China. Sanya.

Just wanted to let everyone know. This is my last entry on this blog site. From now on I will be writing my blog entries on I will let everyone know when my first entry will be posted. Thank you for following me here and hope to see you on my new blog!

Oh, a wonder land of China. You are so puzzling to me. From your smells in the air to your ability to imitate anything. From your ancient history to a the modern skyscrapers.
After 5 or 6 times I've been to China, it still amazes me to an extend where I can't seem to like it. But I try. I try very hard.

This time around, our destination was Sanya. An ancient Island that dates all the way back to 221BC. It promised a lot of good things. As well as white sands and blue waters. Some Asian players told us it was like "Miami." And of course when you go to a place with these kind of expectations it never turns out to be good.

On my first day there, I almost got run over by a car, while crossing the street on my way to
breakfast. Was kicked out of breakfast because I didn't have the right coupons. And was hit on the head with a broom by a woman who cleaned the street. Great first day, wouldn't you say?

Also, remember I said I love trying new foods? Well...not everything. The morning I was kicked out of the European breakfast. I was sent to a Chinese breakfast. Let me just say, that after I saw snake skins marinated in peppers, I run back to the European breakfast and begged to let me stay. The rest of the week it was European breakfast and Russian restaurants for lunch and dinner.
Why Russian? Oh, you would be surprised how many Russian people are in Sanya! I actually think there is the same amount of Russians as there are Chinese people on that Island! Shop and restaurant signs are in Russian! Chinese people in Sanya don't speak English, but they speak Russian. So for me it was easy to communicate in my own language.

But first things first. As soon as we land in Sanya, we find ourselves in a long line for taxi. Of course, taxi cars nowhere to be seen. Private car drivers swirled around us, trying to make us go with one of them. Their best price is $150. Compare to a $15 regular taxi fare. After 20 minutes in line we are tempted to take a private taxi. But we persist standing in line.
Finally, cars start coming in. Line starts moving. People get into cars not respecting the order of the line. When our turn came, the lady with a baby run in front of us and got in our car.

Eventually we got in the taxi and were on our way to the hotel. The smells outside were horrible. I covered my nose with my shirt. Galina turned to me and said: "I don't see any similarity to Miami here. Do you?" I looked outside and saw run down buildings. Dirty streets and lots of people. And that smell.....

As we got closer to the hotel, the area was improving. There were more modern buildings and cleaner streets. A lot of construction everywhere. Our hotel lobby was very "Grand." Marble staircase, columns and floors. But when I came closer to look at the beautiful flowers on the staircase, I understood that they were made of fake marble. I smile.

My room was nice and spacious, but the view from it, made me want to keep the curtains closed all day. Outside my window were temporary metal buildings that looked like storage. Some windows were covered with news papers. But I could still see inside. And what I saw wasn't pretty. I felt sorry to see young men, who lived in these horrible conditions. Three rows of bunk beds with candles for a light.
Sometimes I heard people fighting underneath my window. But I never got up to see what was going on.

We've spent 2 weeks in Sanya. Our first week was getting used to the conditions, courts and people. The cars that drove on the side walk and people walking on the road. All of it happening in front of the police station, which obviously didn't care about it. "Stop" signs were just a suggestion and "do not enter" signs were there to make the road more attractive.

One day I've decided to visit a local market. I specifically asked to take me to a place where local shopped. I have to say that I've regretted my decision after I was thrown out of taxi at the market. The door was opened for me. There was screaming and yelling, until someones hand reached for mine and pulled me out of the car. I thought "oh well, I will find another taxi when I am finished" And only later I understood how wrong I was. There were no other taxis. And f there were, people jumped in front of you and took it.
I could take one of many private motorcycle drivers, who honked at me all the time. But I preferred to walk, than take a half broken motorcycle.

After 10 minutes my slow walk became a fast one. And later into a run. I saw people looking at me like I was a big red spot on a white wall. Some followed me, and some stopped to look at me. I was scared. So the last 15 minutes of my walk became a sprint. When I finally saw courts, my heart jumped of happiness!
Needless to say that after my market visit, I didn't go anywhere alone. Forget about remote areas.

When my time came to go home, I couldn't wait to get on the plane! I had 30hrs of travel ahead of me, but all I was focusing on -I am going home!!!!


After Pattaya, I went back home for a week. It was very hard to adjust to time change. By the time I have adjusted, I had to fly back to Asia. Long flights are not my favorites. And I don't know of anyone who likes them. Perhaps, the first class passengers enjoy them a little more.
The only positive thing about long flight are miles. You get a lot of them! I am hoping to go up in medallion status this year.

Kuala-Lumpur greeted us with hot weather, nice people and great hotel. With one of the best breakfast buffets I've ever seen! The incredible selection of food included: Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Malaysian and of course European foods.

I love trying new foods! When I played I was not allowed to try anything new or strange looking. Now I can do it!
In Kuala-Lumpur, I've discovered the Roti Canai bread for breakfast from Indian cuisine. Funny looking rice noodles in a shape of animal faces. And a strange looking fruit. (Still don't know the real name for it)

But sometimes, eating new things can cause some problems. In my case I started having problems with my teeth. Bad place to have problems with teeth, you would think. Malaysia.
But you'd be surprised how many Europeans fly to Malaysia to get their teeth fixed. It's much cheaper and you will get the same or better quality of equipment and care.

The tournament set me up with a young Indian dentist. His office was full of international clients.
In a matter of a week I had teeth cleaning, a crown and 4 fillings done. All for an incredible price of 430 dollars! Can you beat that! Last time I visited a dentist here in USA, I left with an estimate of $5.000!

And what is Kuala-Lumpur without it's "Twin Towers"? I had to go see them. Unfortunately I couldn't get up to the last floor. Because I had to get up very early in the morning to buy tickets. And I hate getting up early! But I walked around the towers and visited the huge mall underneath. The most impressive view of towers is at night, when towers are lit up. That's when you really get the feeling of how grand the construction is. And realize how small you are.

Kuala-Lumpur is a very modern and international city. But some things still remain old fashioned. Some modern offices still had floor bathrooms. If you've never seen or used one in your life, you might not like it. I remember these bathrooms from my childhood. Some schools and hospitals had them. They are not the most comfortable ones. Neither good looking. And of course they looked much worse back in Soviet Union.

We've spent two weeks in Malaysia. It was a very pleasant experience. And to make it even better, Galina won her first WTA doubles title. Paired up with Dinara Safina, the girls got a "wild card" into the tournament (a spot in the draw, granted by a tournament director or federation, to those who can't get in the tournament on their own) With an average height of 6 feet, they both had good serves and powerful ground strokes. Their first match was less than perfect. But once the girls got used to each other,they overpowered their opponents all the way through the draw.
I was happy for Galina. I know how it feels to win that first title after years of pursuing it! Doesn't matter how good you played or where you won that first tournament. It will always be very special.
After the ceremony, interviews, massages and showers. Galina, me, Dinara and her team gathered up at the hotels restaurant. The restaurant stuff was nice enough to re-open the already closed kitchen for us. We celebrated the victory with a couple of late night drinks and a very early morning flight to China.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


It took us about 3 hrs to get from Bangkok to Pattaya. The road to Pattaya was boring and seemed to be never ending. But when we got to Pattaya, we understood that it was worth it.
Our hotel was located on a cliff near the beach. We arrived late at night, so we couldn't see the beautiful views. But when the morning came. And I went down for breakfast, I was stunned at the beauty of the ocean views around our hotel.
The tennis club was inside the hotel. And it took me only a few minutes to walk down there.
Galina was playing against Sania Mirza, who was the number one seed in the qualifying. I thought it was a good match for her. Sania hits the ball hard and gives you a good rhythm. And I knew Galina likes these kind of players. But I also knew that I had to do a certain mental preparation with her before she entered the court. Because her performance in Bangkok was less than great.
When Galina went on court that day, she looked more confident than a day ago. And she beat Sania 6-4 6-4.

We continued doing the same mental preparation for that whole week. And every day Galina went on court she looked better and better. Her match against Maria Kirilenko was almost lost. She was down 1-6 2-5 and 0-30. But Galina fought till the end. And when I saw a small let down from Maria. I took advantage of on-court coaching, came on court and told Galina to fight till the end, put more balls in. And when she got a chance to attack, just go for it. Galina listened and delivered. She won the match, fighting off 2 match points. I was really proud of her!
In her quarterfinal match against Sara Errani, Galina was a set and 3-1 up. But I think coming from the qualifying and playing every day in the heat, took its toll on Galina. She lost her concentration and lost that match in 3 sets.
Nevertheless, it was a good tournament for Galina. She was coming back from a long break. Which is never easy. And she was already beating players like Kirilenko, Mirza and Oprandi.

It wasn't all work in Pattaya. On my day off, I went with other players to the beach. We helped locals to plant corals. The corals would be put in the ocean later on. And would be monitored through the year. I hope my coral grows faster then others :)

There was also a nice player party. With great food, fireworks and elephants. It was my first time seeing a live elephant. I never visited any zoos when I was little.
I saw players getting on the elephants trunk without fear. But it took me a while to gain courage. I fed some bananas to the elephant first, cautiously approaching him. Galina encouraged me to go on. As soon as I touched elephants head, I was swooped up in the air.
When I came down, I saw blood on my hands and my dress. I looked back at the elephant, and noticed that he had lots of small bloody spots on his head. He must've been hit with a hook to obey. I didn't like that. I was trying to talk to the man who was there with an elephant. But he didn't pay any attention to me. So all I could do for that poor elephant, was give him more bananas.

I really enjoyed Pattaya tournament. It was a nice relaxing atmosphere. Great food and nice courts. All right on the beach. The only thing I didn't like seeing while there. Many creepy men, who went there on sex tourism. I felt a bit uncomfortable on the bleachers, siting among 99% men.
On my last night in Pattaya, I visited a silk shop. And bought a pair of beautiful silk pillow cases. I love bringing home a souvenir from every place in the world I am visiting.