Moscow: Russian tennis star Maria Kirilenko feels she is reaching her peak as a tennis player and will soon achieve some big victories.
Kirilenko is at a career-high 12th in the world rankings and in February ended a four-and-a-half year streak without a WTA singles title when she won the Pattaya Open.
“I think every athlete has their time, when they open up and start to show results. My time has come just now,” she told R-Sport Tuesday.
“I feel I’ve changed as a player, that I’ve started to think differently on the court, that how I perceive things has become different.”
“I’m getting pleasure from tennis now. And with that, even if I’m losing I keep calm.”
Kirilenko put the breakthrough down to her decision to stop playing doubles this season, after last year winning the WTA championships and Olympic bronze with Nadia Petrova.
“I think I’ve made the right decision. I’ve started to recover better and I’m not wasting a lot of my strength,” said the world no.12.
At 26, Kirilenko is nine years older than her friend and fellow Russian Maria Sharapova was when she won Wimbledon in 2004. Kirilenko said that her more tactical style of play made her a later bloomer than the more powerful Sharapova.
“I was always so cunning, ran a lot, tried to trick everyone. On the whole, that’s why the transition from juniors to the pros didn’t come easy for me. It was hard to play against grown women,” she said.
“But gradually with every year I’ve gained experience, and to look back now at how my career developed, every year was better than the last. Of course there weren’t any colossal leaps, but each season I had good wins against strong players.”
“Yes, Sharapova won a Grand Slam at 17, but she was always ahead of me in terms of physical development. Since childhood she was much taller, her data are completely different.”
Tuesday, Kirilenko reached the second round of the Italian Open in Rome, defeating Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-3. She will face Varvara Lepchenko of the United States in the second round of the clay-court tournament.