A press-conference was held on January 28 at the press-center of “SIBUR ARENA” after the official draw ceremony of St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy 2017 took place with last year’s runner-up Belinda Bencic and defending champion Roberta Vinci participating. Alexander Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Gazprom board of directors, PJSC, general director of the tournament and Vladimir Kamelzon, St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy Directorate member and Emeritus coach of Russia and Ukraine also took questions from the press.
Question: Roberta, how does it feel to be back in St. Petersburg? How can you evaluate the current stage of women’s tennis development – namely, taking into account the results of the Australian Open where two rather ageing tennis players – the Williams sisters – played in the finals? Don’t you think women’s tennis has become even more popular than men’s?
Roberta Vinci: I’m glad to be back in St Petersburg where I spent some great time last year. Women’s tennis is developing well, there are a lot of young players who show high-quality tennis. But in my opinion we should not write off the ageing athletes either, because the Williams sisters brilliantly played at the Australian Open 2017 both reaching the finals. Actually, I belong in the same age category because I’m 33. Women’s tennis is very interesting. I’m not sure it’s more interesting than men’s but it’s a fact that it is exciting to watch women’s tennis on TV.
Q.: Last year you said you would consider retiring, but at the end of the year decided to stay. What was your motivation?
R. V.: Yeah, I have had some doubts. I was thinking to quit but at the end of the season I decided to go on as I have been playing on WTA tour for so long and enjoyed it a lot. After thinking twice I decided to play another season. The main thing is to feel healthy physically and continue to enjoy the game.
Q: Roberta, what do you expect from the tournament and how can you comment on the draw? You’ll play against Timea Babos from Hungary.
R. V.: It’s gonna be a tough match. It’s a high level tournament, there are a lot of strong players in the draw. In R1 I’m playing Timea Babos. We played against each other here in R2 last year, to my recollection. She is a tough opponent as she strikes the ball hard and serves well. And overall all the main draw participants are very strong.
Q: Vladimir Kamelzon, there are no tennis players from St. Petersburg in qualifications. What are the perspectives of tennis in St. Pete?
Vladimir Kamelzon: First, I’d like to note that the draw ceremony electronic format is unique, I’ve never seen it before. Speaking about the tennis perspectives of players from St Petersburg, our tournaments expand and grow year on year big time. I think the youngsters will follow up and show good results shortly. Their main goal is to reach and prevail everyone. The tournament for kids “Junior Ladies Trophy by «Formula TX» is taking place right now in “Dynamo”. I wish them big success and not to be lost during their tennis way to the heights.
Q: Alexander, what can you tell about Venus Williams as a participant of St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy? Especially after her results in Australia and that somewhat unexpected family finals she played against her younger sister Serena?
Alexander Medvedev: Judging by the latest information, she is coming. In any case, she was said to have made inquiries about the last flight on Sunday. Which to me means that she is coming here from Australia.
Q: Belinda, how do you like your draw? What memories do you keep from last year?
Belinda Bencic: Last year was the first time we met on the circuit. We played a lot of times in juniors before. We played in St. Petersburg last year, then in Moscow where I also participated in the draw ceremony and where I drew her as my opponent. Actually, today I was practicing with her and I said jokingly – for sure it’s gonna happen again. And it did! On the one hand, it’s funny, on the other it’s amazing that we will face each other again.
Q: Last year you had a great period after St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy 2016 when you cracked the Top-10 but then later you slowed down as you got injured…
Belinda Bencic: Injuries were a definitely a factor, I couldn’t play a lot and play well. It’s always troublesome to come back after injuries. But I think tennis is made of ups and downs. I’ m really glad I had this expertise of coming back after some tough times, and now I’m very motivated and excited to come over that period as I have nothing to defend. So I see I could reach the top ranking again.
Q: Alexander, you play tennis and always pick-up good female partners which means you know women’s characters very well. Who was the hardest player to invite to this tournament?
Alexander Medvedev: After last year’s smashing success it was really easy to talk about the eventual participation both to the players and their agents because they all liked the tournament, so pigeon mail spread good words about the tournament.
I can also reveal to you that we also had negotiations with Caroline Wozniacki who participated last year but unfortunately she couldn’t come this year. We also had negotiations with Agnieszka Radwanska but she couldn’t make it either for personal reasons. I think the tournament is strong as it is even without those two players, it is plain to see from the tournament’s draw and the clashes we see in R1. As to the ladies partners I pick, well, you will see it all by yourself at the exhibition tournament “Formula Tennis Hockey” which will namely feature tennis players from the main draw of St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy 2017. The qualifications of the tennis-hockey event will be played on Saturday and the final exhibition match will be played on Sunday before the WTA finals.
В: Belinda, the lineup of this tournament namely include Yulia Putintseva and Daria Gavrilova who dropped their Russian citizenship switching respectively to Kazakh and Australian citizenship and thus will play for other countries. What do you thing about changing citizenship and did you get any offer in this respect?
Belinda Bencic: No, I have not received any tempting offers from Kazakhstan, for sure (laughter). But then again, since both my parents are from Slovakia, the Slovak media would often wonder whether I feel more Slovak than Swiss. But I was born and raised in Switzerland, so I am really proud to represent this country at different tournaments, namely in Fed Cup.