Simona Halep takes on Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals of the Apia International Sydney.
The end of a WTA season means something different for every player; some are relieved to return home to family and friends, while others can hardly sit still, and fly to the nearest exhibition event.
Alla Kudryavtseva needed a vacation.
A Top 20 doubles player who has been ranked as high as No.56 in singles – with wins over Maria Sharapova and Karolina Pliskova – the Russian had spent the summer playing a debut season of Mylan World TeamTennis – where she won Rookie of the Year playing for the Austin Aces – and the fall chasing one of the few remaining spots at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global with partner, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“I was exhausted at the end of the year, and I didn’t even realize it until I had a chance to stop playing,” Kudryavtseva told WTA Insider after a practice session in Melbourne.
Narrowly missing out on a second straight Singapore appearance, she nonetheless enjoyed a week on site as a first alternate.
“I actually got to watch a lot of matches this time; I felt like a little bit like a fan! The first time I was there in 2014, I was trying to preserve energy and not watch too much, but this time I got to watch a lot of Maria Sharapova. She played so good, so powerful. Aga, of course, showed her magic and that was great as well. Just to be there in Singapore meant a lot.”
Hey @NastiaPav and @AllaK11! pic.twitter.com/GMPx6Ngf6E
— Becky! (@_strongiscaro) October 25, 2015
But the season wasn’t over yet.
“I wanted to avoid what happened this past week, which was that my singles ranking dropped to No.235. In trying to catch up on singles, I flew over to the United States, but then I got sick and it all kind of fell apart.”
Rock bottom came in Carlsbad, a WTA 125K Series event right before Thanksgiving. Playing a first round against former Aces teammate Nicole Gibbs, Kudryavtseva was fighting illness and fatigue when a mid-match court reassignment put her on emotional overload, leading to a rare default and leaving the Russian to reassess how she approached the game, mentally and physically.
“It was a wake up call. I love tennis, and especially from my experience playing in Austin, I learned that some people in tennis really love me. I have loyal fans that have stuck with me, who help me out on Twitter, sending me love and support.
“It was a moment for me to think, ‘what am I doing? Is this really who I want to be on the court? Is that the kind of person I want people to think that I am?’ My friends would tell you I’m a fairly positive girl who likes to crack jokes. I don’t want to be remembered as some grouchy, negative, complaining, or whining person who is never happy.
“I also have to plan my schedule better, and listen to my body more because I guess I’m not as young as I thought! It’s time to start pacing myself, to choose the tournaments I want to play more wisely this year. I want to be able to be in touch with myself more and to not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Red sand beach………. Surreal beauty…. My heart is stolen ❤️?? pic.twitter.com/8JjXZlnfb6
— Alla Kudryavtseva (@AllaK11) December 8, 2015
As she spoke, Alizé Lim passed by and exclaimed, “She’s so positive!” Indeed, the first people to rally around Kudryavtseva after the incident were the friends she had on tour.
“For me, the support of the players was very important. It was nice to know that they didn’t judge me by that one episode and know I’m a better person than that.”
“I’d really let down my doubles partner, Vania King; we couldn’t play doubles as a result of what had happened, and I felt terrible. But through it all, she was so nice and was a really good friend.
“The same goes for my opponent; we saw each other maybe an hour after the match, and I came over and I apologized for my behavior. Nicole was so nice; she said, ‘don’t worry about it, mate! Take a break, it’s all going to work itself out.'”
Just a few more sunsets here in Hawaii before I go back to training…. ? Tennis, I'll be back soon ? pic.twitter.com/8hAFAdnQ9q
— Alla Kudryavtseva (@AllaK11) December 6, 2015
There’s taking a break, and then there’s Kudryavtseva’s trip to Maui.
“It was all fantastic: the snorkeling, the hiking, the beaches. I even tried body surfing, which did not go so well! But still it was just wonderful. All of the people I met over there were so positive, so loving and so connected with the nature and the history of the island. I learned a lot, as well, and it was a really well-timed rest, probably the best vacation I’ve ever had, considering the place I was in.”
Two weeks on the Valley Isle thoroughly rejuvenated the Russian, who returned to the court having rediscovered her passion for the game.
“I was able to come back and find that I missed tennis. I actually played twice over there, but when the trip ended I was like, ‘oh my god, a racquet, this is so awesome!’ I made a couple of changes; for example, I started playing with a new racquet, I have a new sponsor. Everything felt new and fresh, and my head was free from the negativity and stress of last year.”
Another strong session today! ????? @AllaK11 @athletic1080 pic.twitter.com/7IEsHKymin
— Claudio Pistolesi (@cpistolesi) December 11, 2015
One familiar element came in the form of Claudio Pistolesi, a former ATP player who has worked with Monica Seles and Daniela Hantuchova through his esteemed coaching career.
“He worked with me in 2014 when I made a singles comeback into the Top 100; hopefully we can turn things around, play some aggressive tactics and get to places we haven’t been before. That’s our goal; we don’t want to put a number on it, just get to new places and go far.”
Though she plans to play through the start of year with King, a two-time major champion who spent nearly a year rehabbing a back injury, Kudryavtseva began her season with doubles specialist Andreja Klepac; together they played Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza tough over two sets in the semifinals of the the Brisbane International.
“Andreja and I played really well; we had a really good time, and she’s another example of a very positive person who sees the best of things. But I’m looking forward to playing with Vania; we actually shared an apartment when we were training at the same academy. We get along great and I was very happy to see her when she arrived in Melbourne.
Off to Oz! #yesplease #travel #tennis. Полетели! 26 часов ? #путешествия pic.twitter.com/QBvEEpxciP
— Alla Kudryavtseva (@AllaK11) December 26, 2015
“We’re going to try and make it work; I think it can be a promising partnership and I’m ready to give Miss King the title of Comeback Queen!”
The last few months read like a screenplay for Kudryavtseva, How Alla Got Her Groove Back, the working title. But the Russian is still looking for her fairytale ending, in singles as much as in doubles.
“Life works in mysterious ways. In Russia, we have this saying: ‘you make plans, but God laughs.’ I’m just trying to focus on the good atmosphere with my coach and working hard to equally focus on singles and doubles. We’ll see where things go from here.”
Follow along with Alla on her journey through the 2016 season each month on WTA Insider, and on Twitter @AllaK11!
NEW YORK, NY, USA – There are a lot of numbers floating around when someone’s going for this much history, so we’re putting them in one place – we’ll also update this after every one of her matches this fortnight. So here you are – all the Serena Williams stats you need for the Australian Open!
Serena & Grand Slams
~ Serena has the second-most Grand Slam titles in the Open Era with 21 (Graf 22)
~ Serena has the third-most Grand Slam titles all-time with 21 (Court 24, Graf 22)
~ Serena has the third-most Grand Slam match wins in Open Era with 285 (Navratilova 306, Evert 299)
~ Serena is trying to win her seventh Australian Open title (won it in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2015); she already has the Open Era record for most Australian Open titles, male or female
~ This is Serena’s 20th time being the No.1 seed at a Grand Slam (she’s won 11 of the first 19)
~ Serena is 60-1 in Grand Slam first round matches (only loss: Razzano at 2012 French Open)
Serena & Finals
~ Serena is 21-4 in Grand Slam finals, the second-best winning percentage Open Era (Court was 11-1)
~ Serena has won her last eight Grand Slam finals (last loss: Stosur at 2011 US Open)
~ Serena has won her last 15 finals (last loss: Azarenka at 2013 Cincinnati)
~ Serena has won 30 of her last 32 finals (only losses: Azarenka at 2013 Doha & 2013 Cincinnati)
Serena & Age-Related Stats
~ Serena is the oldest woman to win a major in the Open Era (33y & 289d at 2015 Wimbledon)
~ Serena is the oldest No.1 in WTA history (set record when returned to No.1 on February 18, 2013)
~ Serena has the longest winning span between majors of any woman Open Era at 15 years and 10 months between 1999 US Open and 2015 Wimbledon (Evert, Navratilova and Graf had 12-year spans)
~ Serena has won eight majors since turning 30, the most after 30 by far in the Open Era (Court and Navratilova three each, King and Evert two each and Jones, Wade, Li and Pennetta one each)
~ Serena will spend her 153rd & 154th straight weeks at No.1 during the Australian Open fortnight (third-longest streak at No.1 in WTA history after Graf’s 186 and Navratilova’s 156)
~ Serena is spending her 276th & 277th career weeks at No.1 during the Australian Open fortnight (third-most weeks at No.1 in WTA history after Graf’s 377 and Navratilova’s 332)
~ Serena has the most career prize money in WTA history ($74.1M – next-most is Sharapova’s $36.5M)
~ Serena has the fifth-most WTA titles in Open Era with 69 (after Navratilova, Evert, Graf, Court)
Before & After Patrick Mouratoglou
Serena joined forces with Patrick Mouratoglou after falling first round at the 2012 French Open, and the dynamic duo’s numbers speak for themselves – here’s a comparison of before and after Mouratoglou:
win-loss: 523-107 (.830)
WTA titles: 41
Grand Slam titles: 13 out of 47 (.277)
vs Top 10: 111-59 (.653)
win-loss: 214-16 (.930)
WTA titles: 28
Grand Slam titles: 8 out of 14 (.571)
vs Top 10: 52-5 (.912)
Since Regaining World No.1
Since returning to the top spot on the WTA Rankings on February 18, 2013, Serena’s been fantastic:
WTA titles: 22 of 29
Grand Slam titles: 6 of 11
vs Top 10: 37-3