Ekaterina Khairutdinova on the tennis tour
Katya is not at all from a tennis family, her parents are ordinary middle class from Krasnodar. The girl was six when her family took her to her first practice. She came to the court, the athlete recalls, practically barefoot. Her parents rushed to buy sneakers, but they were not tennis shoes, so Katya hit the ball in sandals. Since that time she was training individually with the coaches in the south of Russia. Tennis academies were preferred to this approach.
“It’s a vague opinion about tennis academies, even the top players talk about it. From my experience of coaching in such places, it’s simply sucking money. There’s no point. The only good thing about the academy is the base. They don’t work for results or individuality, they just work for show,” the athlete says.
These are not general words – Ekaterina trained at the academy named after Ozerov in Ryazan. But she adds that Russian and European tennis are different. In the academies of Spain and, in particular, Patrick Muratoglu, all the top players train with personal coaches or relatives – fathers – who are brought by the players. And the owner of the academy is more of a mentor who observes and only gives comments.
Such places, the girl believes, work more for the brand: only for that you have to pay a lot of money, and also to spend for a mentor, courts, accommodation. “It’s not cheap in Europe. And you have to pay for taking coaches to tournaments,” Khayrutdinova said.
If you sign a contract with an academy, says Katya, you should be able to bring a personal trainer and a fitness coach. It’s good if they provide free courts, cover the cost of travel and pay interest.
At Australian Open 2022, where Katya made her TBS debut but faltered in the third round, she defeated fifth seeded American Clervie Nguna. Then she played two Junior U18 tournaments on clay in Bulgaria. At the first one she crashed out in singles and doubles, at the second one she reached the finals in singles and played in the semifinals in duets. That’s how she jumped up to the 45th place in the ITF Juniors ranking. Next stop is Paris. “I`ll probably play in Milan before the major, but I won`t be able to get the visa for technical reasons,´ Katya added.
Separately, the tennis player will not prepare for Wimbledon and the grass season. “I will continue on the “futures” series, maybe finish the juniors on the ground or already on the hard. Without Wimbledon there will be no point in going to grass tournaments,” concluded the athlete.
According to her, the bosses of the ITF after the decision of the British Lawn Tennis to suspend Russia and Belarus from local competitions have not contacted the athlete, not even a letter came, although colleagues are constantly in touch and support. “Already used to the fact that the ITF is Britain, and the British are tolerant to everyone, but not to the Russians. All the same, to be honest, as life goes on. I’ve never been persecuted by anyone I know personally.
This break on grass will not hurt Catherine’s plans to go to the adult tour. Now it is important to timely switch to 15-thousand and 25-thousand tennis and think about university tennis in the USA. Danielle Collins, an American and a finalist of the AO-2022, is a bright representative of it.
The girl has plans to go to Florida International University (FIU) in Miami. She was invited there by Serbian coach Katorina Petrovic, who in her time opened Kristina Mladenovic, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Olga Danilovic. Petrovic helps players rise from the university level to the professionals. “She spotted me back in the ITF top 250. We’ve been in touch for three years. Even my grade point average doesn’t matter for admission,” the girl said. – “It’s all up to you. You can come and go. You can come and work, choose tournaments, try things out. The university tries to help you. You study, get an education, play for the university.
Ekaterina thinks that it is hard to develop in Krasnodar as well as in Russia. Moreover, the Tennis Federation of Russia doesn’t help the junior tennis player. Everything is at her own expense, says the girl. She spent $600 for two tournaments in Bulgaria without a flight, but at this stage in the juniors they pay for food. The money goes toward court rent, lodging, and moving from one city to another. And since there’s no prize money in the junior tour, the parents pay for everything. Although it is worth adding that the FTR paid for Ekaterina’s participation in the Australian Open – 2022: it helped with the flight, accommodation and food.
“They position me as a player of the Russian national team. According to the documents it is the main and reserve squad. In total there are 30 people,” says Ekaterina.
Katerina has no doubts about her abilities: she compares the game with the actions on the court of Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep. The main thing is the attacking style. “The Romanian plays from herself. She can go to the defense, play in the wall, but on offense she plays from herself, builds combinations. Her coach taught her that kind of game and she still does it today”.
The junior builds her game on the backhand, right kick, adds, disrupts more often.
“Women’s tennis is changing a lot right now. Anybody can shoot, then stay, or get knocked out again. My 1-year-olds at 14 or 15 were thinking about how to earn their first junior points in the lowest categories. And now girls the same age are already in the top ten [ITF]. It’s the same in the WTA. The programs are changing, the mindset, the tennis.”
Over her career, the athlete has junior singles titles, more wins in doubles combinations last year on clay and hard court. The goal is to make it to the elite. “I would like to open the WTA rankings. To me, honestly, the coaches who watched me say that I can realistically get into the top 200 of the WTA or maybe higher. There are nuances. I’m not sure in the next six months. Maybe in a year, two, three.”
Catherine has Roland Garros 2022 ahead of her, where she has agreed to pair up with Canada’s Anabel Xu, although she has been hitting balls with Anna Zyryanova, Kira Pavlova, Maria Sholokhova, and Anastasia Gurieva all last year. It turned out that the girls did not make it to the main grid of RG. Ekaterina is already thinking about the title.
“Talked to Daria Gavrilova. You can win a Slam at 18 and secure your future by not playing, but it’s going to be hard. Daria said it’s better to approach it gradually with age and experience, so you don’t get the weight on you early, like Emma Raducana did. I’d like to make money as early as possible and secure some sort of future for myself. Not to go scavenging, not to collect pennies and save on everything.”
Catherine’s high school graduation exams will begin in May, but ahead of her is an important stage in her professional career – a possible admission to a university in the United States. “It should be a breath of fresh air. A step into the future, into a new life.”