x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Zvonareva's balancing act

When she is not winning tennis matches, Vera Zvonereva is studying international economics and fundraising for charity.

Vera Zvonareva, who has a bye to the second round in Dubai, has found a knack of keeping herself busy while not playing tennis.
Vera Zvonareva, who has a bye to the second round in Dubai, has found a knack of keeping herself busy while not playing tennis.

Sometime before May, Vera Zvonareva is hoping to complete her 120-page thesis on "How to improve the competitiveness of Russian produce on the international markets" and complete her diploma in international economics.

She will also be trying to help raise some funds for research into Rett syndrome, which is a disorder of the nervous system that leads to developmental reversals and occurs almost exclusively in girls. Little is known about the disease and it is often misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy.

Zvonareva, of course, will also be travelling across the globe playing tennis, training every day and catching a flight virtually every week.

She is world No 3 and her career still remains a top priority, but her studies and her support for Rett syndrome research figure prominently on her calendar.

"It [the studies] is something that is important to me," said the 26-year-old, who reached the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

"I think it should be important to everyone, to a certain extent. Tennis is not everything in life. There are so many different things that you can experience.

"So I always try to work on myself - be it tennis, in becoming a better tennis player, or to become a better person off the court.

"In order to do so, I need to focus on something else, to learn different things and being a student at the Diplomatic Academy obviously helps."

Zvonareva enrolled for the three-year diploma course at Moscow's Diplomatic Academy, a university run by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2007 after being forced out of the game due to a wrist injury.

"I went to the Diplomatic Academy and took my exams when I was injured [in 2007]," she said. "I was out of the game for more than six months, so I had to keep myself busy. I took some classes and then I passed my exams.

"We have got some great teachers, great students and I really love the atmosphere. That's why I am trying to keep up my studies.

"This should be my last year and I am working on my thesis. That will be an interesting one. I have a lot of material already [and] I just have to put it together."

Zvonareva admits she might struggle to meet her May deadline, given her commitment to tennis, which includes not just playing on the court, but making promotional appearances off it as well.

"Obviously it's a little difficult to manage being a professional tennis player especially," she said.

"Playing at this level, I have a lot of responsibilities, not only as a player on the court but also as a player off the court. So it takes up a lot of time.

"I wish I could put a little bit more time in my studies, but it is time to make some priorities for myself and at the moment tennis is a priority.

"It's tough to focus on working on my thesis. So I am a little bit disappointed in a way because I do not put in as much effort, but if I cannot finish it this year, I will take another year and finish it next year."

There was a time when her books helped to take her mind off the game; helped her relax and unwind. But that is not the case now due to the pressures of the upcoming deadline.

"Before, studies were part of my relaxation but now it's too much," she said.

"So now, just like a lazy person, I lay down on the couch, put a DVD on, take popcorn, cover myself with a blanket and watch like three movies in a row.

"That's probably the best day I can have. But it's like for one day only. I have already recovered after one day like this, one day of movies, then I can do a little bit of shopping, meeting my friends, just talking about something else besides tennis.

"It is very important for me to not only talk about tennis; we talk about tennis all the time. But just the friends that are [from] school, they have just no idea about tennis, and we just talk about life. It's very interesting."

At the Dubai Tennis Championships, Zvonareva has a couple of days to unwind before the matches begin.

Seeded No 2, she has a bye to the second round, which should start tomorrow. That also gave her the chance of some free time on Valentine's Day yesterday.

"Valentine's Day, I am here in Dubai and practising, doing my all-access hours," she said yesterday. "That's my romantic Valentines Day. But maybe I will watch a romantic movie tonight or something."