Maria at the Caps game last Tuesday. (Photo via maria-kirilenko)
Alex Ovechkin’s main squeeze is a big deal. Maria Kirilenko is ranked 19th in the world in women’s singles tennis. Like her fiance, she is a serious competitor and a world traveler– playing tournaments all around the globe every year. Alex and Maria have a lot in common– except for location. In a recent interview with Glamour Magazine, Kirilenko details how she and Ovi keep in touch when they’re apart (it involves selfies) and how she manages her competitive spirit.
I have your translation below.
You became a pro when you were just 15 years old. Did it affect your sense of self? Did it make you feel more grownup?
Unquestionably, when you work a lot, travel around many countries, you grow up early, gain experience much faster than any other teenager, who is spending the time at home with computer while his parents are fussing around him.
But you are also often accompanied to tournaments by your dad. Maybe you are still a child as well?
You know, ever since childhood I tried to solve my own little problems by myself, in preschool I always was looking after the kids – even though I could not really do anything yet. And then I went on travel with my team for the first time when I was eight years old. Imagine: you have to do your laundry by yourself, you have to comb your hair by yourself, you have to eat by yourself. Everything by yourself, since childhood. Then later my mom and dad started travelling with me. Now, of course, my family’s support is important to me. If I am playing by myself, it is difficult psychologically. For example, there was a situation, when my dad didn’t get his visa on time, so I had to go to a tournament by myself. The first match was extremely difficult, and I really wanted my dad to join me as soon as possible.
You started in ballet, then ballroom dancing, then tennis. Was all this practicing wearing on you?
This is how I recall it: whatever I came up with, I’d do and I would get it done. I do not remember a single day when I would wake up and think: “No, I am tired, I don’t want [to do it] anymore”. I am a disciplined person: I open my eyes and get up, never lay around in bed. I always kept an eye on myself, never any pants with drooping knees or sagging tights. Ii is just something natural for me. And probably my parents’ example.
You started making money earlier than your peers. How did you spend your first prize money?
That’s when I won The US Open [junior], and got a chance to play in the adult tournament. Well, how much did they pay me… about three thousand dollars. When you make money for the first time, it is a significant amount, of course. But I gave my first prize money to charity. The Nord-Ost siege happened just then, so I gave the money to the victims of that terrorist act.
It’s a noble deed. I didn’t know about that.
Very few knew anything about it.
Maria, do you have other tennis players as friends? Sometimes you play doubles.
There are no friends on the court. Yes, we all know each other well, played with each other a hundred times, yes we are acquaintances, but we are not close to each other.
WTA tournaments are held in all of the biggest cities of the world. Where is your favorite shopping spot?
Yes, all of the tournaments are held in major cities – Paris, London, Melbourn, Rome. So if you follow the same route for ten years, you know all the god places to walk or find something beautiful. But I like Moscow the best – and it’s not just shopping. When you are abroad all the time, you want to be home.
How do you take care of yourself? You are forced to spend so much time in the sun.
90% of all the tournaments are held in mercilessly sunny conditions, so tennis players tend to age early. Especially girls from countries like Argentina or Italy – they seem to be so young, but looking older than their age. But I try to look after myself, use sunscreen. Also, my skin is quite dry, so I use moisturizer, regular one.
Do you have any pre-match rituals?
Sometime I have a good match, and subconsciously, I try to repeat what happened – go to the same restaurant, order the same food. Although it is all nonsense. You must count on yourself and not get hung up on some rituals and superstitions.
Is it true you like fishing? Isn’t it boring?
I haven’t been fishing in a while. I should find time and do it! I went fishing for the first time when I was 13-15 years old. We had a training camp in Croatia, the sea was very close to our training facility, so in our free time we borrowed some fishing rods from a friend and went fishing. That’s when I caught my first fish, and I really liked it. When the fish bites all the time – it’s fun. But a couple of times we fished from a boat, and we didn’t catch anything at all. That is not as much fun.
How do you and Alex Ovechkin find time for each other? Do you put dates on your sporting calendar?
To an observer it may seem very difficult, but in reality we see each other often. When Sasha is on break, he always goes with me everywhere, even the tournaments. And when he is playing, I try to go and see him after my tournaments.
Do you find each other interesting? You are both athletes, you have a lot in common…
Oh no, it helps us, brings us closer – we understand each other very well. two athletes, especially two talented athletes – how can that be a problem?
You have announced your engagement, but have you given a thought to your wedding dress?
I have some ideas. The dress has to be feminine, elegant. When I was a child, I thought about Cinderella’s dresses, the jewelry and glitter, but when you grow up, you start thinking about it in simpler terms. The dress just has to be incredibly beautiful – that’s all.
It will be difficult for you to make the choice without getting Alex’s advice, won’t it?
Yes, we always write to each other and send pictures. He is very busy right now, but I already sent him a picture from the studio.
Photo credit: Glamour Magazine