Residence : Moscow, Russia
Date of Birth : January 25, 1987
Birthplace : Moscow, Russia
Height : 5′ 8” (1.73 m)
Weight : 127 lbs. (57.6 kg)
Plays : Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Coach : Yuri Kirilenko
Interests : reading, music, computer gaming, basketball, football
Favorite players : Jennifer Capriati, Yevgeni Kafelnikov
Maria was very much fond of sport from the very childhood. When she was five years old she started dancing, and when she was seven, her father brought her to ”Dinamo” Moscow Central Stadium, one of the best tennis schools at the time. He had used to play tennis and to really enjoy it – though he could not imagine that this sport will become such an important part of his family’s life.
Maria started to make progress. In less than one year after starting to play tennis Maria won her very first competitions. Since that, she attended all kinds of competitions and tournaments, and soon the idea of becoming a professional tennis-player seemed quite reasonable. Soon she became the number one in her age group in Russia and the CIS. Maria practiced at Dinamo and TsSKA sport grounds. Almost every day her parents brought her there by car from Yubileyny – a small town in Moscow region, where they lived. Right after school – into the car. She could eat or have a rest on the way to the stadium.
This was a hard time. It was not easy to work on the technique for normally there were several people practicing at the same time, although she was lucky to have very experienced teachers. Sometimes she even had a chance to attend international tournaments and to show good results there – but usually it was very difficult to arrange everything for her to visit such an event.
When Maria was twelve years old, an Honored Master of sports, Elena Brioukhovets, saw her while training. She noticed her at once – if one could pay more attention to this girl, – Elena thought, – she might show very impressive results. All the next year Elena watched Maria making progress, and then offered her to work together. From now on tennis became not only a profession but sort of a life style for Maria. A three-year program was made, and a special team was selected. Uncertain romantic dreams of having a success turned into a strategic task – to be one of the best junior tennis-players in the world.
And in less than three years Maria was the number one in her age group, and the number two in the group under eighteen. Working hard and making progress, she started to believe in herself – and many others also believed in her, too. For instance, the well-known tennis-players Yevgeni Kafelnikov, Andrey Olkhovsky and Maxim Mirny, who created an organization supporting young tennis-players. They helped Maria to arrange her training-process and to attend tournaments. All the rest depended on her and her progress. She was lucky to have a good chance – but she had to make an effective use of it.
It feels great when you wake up and realize you are a star. But first, you have to win eleven matches one after another. In 2002 Maria has become one of the youngest winners of the Canadian Open and the US Open Junior Tournaments. Now, there is a further step to be made. Since September 2002 Maria has started participating in WTA events.
It is quite different from the life of other people of her age. First she practices in Odessa – the place where her coach comes from – then goes to a tournament somewhere in the U.S. or in Australia. One would need years in order to go see all the places where Maria has been to. She has visited Louvres, Madam Tussaud’s Museum of Waxworks, and almost all Disneylands in the U.S. She can tell you about terrible monsoons in Thailand, or… how friendly Japanese people are. By the way, it was Japan, where she played her first ”grown-up” tournament. Of course, she felt a bit nervous, but – because young generation is treated very kindly in Japan, and all undertakings are welcome, or – because Maria is not taller than the Japanese themselves, – she was met with encouragement. Press conferences, autographs, taking pictures…
But this is some kind of a compensation for the hard work, frequent trips and long flights. Maria practices at the tennis-court for about three hours per day; the rest of time is spent for physical training. Because of her firm schedule she had to give up school – it is difficult to go to one place for a month, and then, for two months – to another. Maria had to look for some other variants of getting education. When she was twelve, she started to attend external studies for sportsmen. There are some subjects she works on herself, and some she studies privately with teachers.
Tennis is not the only thing she likes. She loves football and other sports. Whenever she goes, she takes her computer with her. And – what makes her different from many other sportsmen – is her love for classical music. She can listen Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach or Beethoven for hours. Once she visited a concert of Mstislav Rostropovich. She was lucky, for she could get acquainted with the maestro. Since then, he has started to pay attention to tennis, and always asks about Maria’s results.
She is still interested in dancing, and is in love with ballet. When she has some free time, she likes to read. Her favorite books are Dumas’ ”The Three Musketeers” and ”Twenty Years After”, Victor Hugo’s ”Notre-Dame de Paris”, ”White Fang” by Jack London, and short stories by O’Henry. She likes ”The Twelve Chairs” and ”The Golden Calf” by Ilf and Petrov. Masha also reads ”Harry Potter” and enjoys detective stories. Maria loves watching movies. Her favorite ones are: ”The Barber of Siberia” and ”The Story of a Knight”. Generally, she prefers comedies.
After tournaments she and her parents, and sometimes also her coach and other ”team” members, go to the country. It’s great to spend the whole day with a rod by a river (Maria loves fishing), or to bake potatoes, sitting around a fire with friends. This is her favorite meal – although, having no special diet, she is very experienced in food. The only restrictions concern pastries. Maria has tried European and Oriental cuisine, foreign delicacies… and fast food in a hurry. That is why her favorite meals are those her mother cooks for her at home, or – something like baked potatoes in the open air.
Masha has time not only for practicing, playing tournaments and baking potatoes. She drives a car, a boat, a small yacht… But, certainly, the number one in her life is tennis. Even when she has free time – which she usually lacks – Maria watches TV translation of interesting matches, enjoys the way Yevgeni Kafelnikov or Jennifer Capriati play. She is anxious about the results of the Russian tennis players.