On Wednesday, world No. 3 and two-time Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva took a break from her preparations for the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells to talk briefly with Busted Racquet.
We discussed late bloomers, graduation and why she doesn't follow any fellow women's players on Twitter.
Busted Racquet: You're at Indian Wells and getting ready to play a second-round match later this week. Have you looked at the draw? Caroline Wozniacki said she hadn't.
Vera Zvonareva: [Laughs] No, I haven't looked at the draw and never do. My coach tells me "you're playing this player" or "you're playing that player." When I come off the court I might say, "oh, who am I playing next." And if I lose, I lose.
BR: This is the first really big tournament since the Australian Open. Are your expectations different when you play a Premier event like this?
Zvonareva: I never have any expectations, I'm just trying to improve myself every day and am trying to do my best every day. I really take it one match at a time and see where it takes me. I never put any pressure on myself and say, "you've got to get to this round and win this tournament." Of course I'm coming to the tournament and want to win the whole thing and I'll do everything to do that.
BR: At 26, you're right in the middle of the top 10 in terms of age. [Kim Clijsters, Sam Stosur, Francesca Schiavone, Li Na and Venus Williams are older, Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Victoria Azarenka and Ageniszka Radwasnka are younger.] That seems to be skewing a bit older than usual. To what do you attribute this shift?
Zvonareva: Everyone lifted their physical condition, so the sport is quite physical. Everyone is at a high level in that way. But you have to have that experience on top of that. Before some players weren't as physical as others, so younger players were coming in and working on their fitness. Maybe they were overpowering the other players. Now everybody has power so it comes down to experience and maturity.
BR: You've peaked at a later age than many. Why do you think that is?
Zvonareva: I think I'm much more mature than I was before. Everyone has their own path. I was always late with everything, I was never so good at 14 -- I mean I was OK, but I was never the best. And then in the last year of 18s I really picked it up. For me, it always takes a long time to reach potential. Some players reach it when they're very young. Then a lot of them retire earlier as well. You can't really predict.
BR: In almost every single interview you're asked the same two things. So which topic are you most sick of hearing questions about: your emotions or going to school.
Zvonareva: [Laughs] Probably, my emotions, I guess. I don't know, people saw me getting upset in two matches andthey still talk about it five years later. You look at other players, everyone got upset in a few matches throughout their career. It's normal. Emotions are a part of the game. If you're not emotional when you do any kind of sport, it's not worth doing it. Fans have emotions, they cheer. Players have emotions and it's very good for the sport.
BR: School it is. How much longer do you have? This is your last year?
Zvonareva: Yes, this is my last year. I'm working on my thesis so hopefully I can graduate.
BR: I went to school with a guy who was the fifth lead in a sitcom [Minkus from "Boy Meets World," because I know you were curious] and was always amazed at how people still whispered around him every time he was around. You're infinitely more famous than him. When you're at school do you find yourself getting that treatment or are you a regular student?
Zvonareva: I'm just a regular student and there is no difference to what I do once I leave school. It's good because, for me, the most important thing is to try and get some knowledge and to know things outside the tennis court that contributes to my life after the sport. I'm trying to develop myself not only as a tennis player but as a person. Study is important for everyone. Nothing is different, I have to do all the tests and sit in the class. I feel like I'm not a tennis player when I'm out there and just a regular student and I enjoy that life.
BR: You follow 16 people on Twitter. Andy Roddick, Ashton Kutcher, Barack Obama among them. You also follow a fake Rafael Nadal. At least I assume he's fake because he spelled his uncle's name wrong.
Zvonareva: Yeah, I think he's a fake one, so I have to unfollow him. But it's fine.
BR: You also don't follow any women's players. Any reason?
Zvonareva: No, no reason. When I signed up for Twitter I did it as something to share about me throughout the day, between the tournaments to get in touch with my fans. I didn't really sign up to follow someone because I don't want to spend all day on my phone following somebody. If I want to talk to other players, I text them.
BR: I hear you. You're not missing much. You list your favorite bands as Rihanna, Pink, Nickelback, Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne. Are there no good bands in Russia?
Zvonareva: There are good bands in Russia and I like a few, but I mostly listen to those bands that you mentioned. [She chuckled after this, but I couldn't tell if it's because she enjoyed the question, was annoyed by the question or because she's embarrassed to admit to liking Nickelback. My guess is B and C.]
BR: Final question: This is going on the Yahoo! Sports blog Busted Racquet. We spell it with a "q" but "k" is also fashionable. How do you like your racquet?
Zvonareva: With a "q."
BR: You're the third person in a row to answer that [Andre Agassi and Caroline Wozniacki were the others]. I don't know if you all are just humoring me, but I appreciate it nonetheless. Thank you and good luck at Indian Wells.
Zvonareva: [Laughs] Thanks.