— Elena told the crowd she couldn’t lose today and required to see you on the court after the 1st set. What did you tell her?
— Of course, she couldn’t lose. Today is my birthday. The 1st set was played wrong tactically, because Lena tried to beat Cornet using power. These two players know each other pretty well. Cornet played off her pace. After the 1st set I said to Elena that this was the wrong tactic to beat Alize. She had to change the rhythm more. She needed to play not only deep, but also some soft balls half court to make her run. In this case Alize could lose her rhythm and confidence. And one more thing: Elena’s serve at 170-180 km/h was convenient for Cornet, she returned well. I advised Elena to serve her 1st serve like her second. And it worked. She won this match with her head and analysis.
— Congratulations on your birthday. Elena did the same on court, but she made you one year younger.
— She was wrong, she told the crowd I turned 50 today, but today I turned 51. I’m even pleased that she made me younger. I can even say that today I feel like I’m 18.
— You coached Elena for a long time. Could you sum up the results of this cooperation?
— It began about 6 years ago. I came to Sochi and we worked really hard. I saw that she is ready to play and to win the tournaments. That time the off-season lasted one month, and after it she reached the finals in her very next tournament falling, lost to Elena Dementieva in the finals. But she defeated some good players en route to the finals. I was pleased that the beginning was so successful. This year we worked in Moscow, it was hard and I also saw that she’s ready. But when she came to Brisbane at the beginning of this year, the heat there was just crazy – 40C. She told me after that match: “I was simply dead”. Sometimes after climate changes you have not only to be in good shape but also to struggle with the weather. It’s a pity that she lost there to Cornet, who then lost in the finals.
— Which Elena’s victory you cherished most?
— Lena played a lot, but the most valuable is the victory in QF of Wimbledon-2016 over Cibulkova. Lena reached her career first Grand Slam QF, and Cibulkova was in a good shape – she played at the Top-10 level. And Vesnina beat her and reached first Grand Slam SF.
— What do you think about Elena’s chances to make it into Top-10? Is it a realistic goal for her right now?
— Of course, I want her to make it there, if only for one step. I know what her potential is. We’ll see before Wimbledon how it goes, whether she is ready for it. Top-10 player have to play consistently, to make fewer unforced errors, to defeat all lower ranked players. And everyone wants to beat Top-10 players and try to show their best game against them.
— What is harder – to play on the court or to support your charge from the tribunes?
— I completely lost my bearings at some point, because one can’t watch such matches like today without taking tranquilizing pills. I wanted her to win so much. It’s a good present for my birthday.
— Did you take pills after your memorable Davis Cup-1995 win over Stich when you saved 9 match-points?
— No. After that legendary match we were crazy all night long, partying like fools. We were at so many discos all night long. We returned to the hotel at 10 AM and went to bed only early in the morning.