Russia’s Vera Zvonareva looks forward to another positive experience on and off the court at the Olympic Games after her bronze medal in Beijing in 2008.
You won a bronze medal in Beijing four years ago – what was that like for you?
It was an incredible experience. It was my first Games and I didn’t know what to expect. I joined the team at the last moment and it wasn’t until after the Games that I realised what I had achieved. I stayed in Beijing for a couple of days after I finished and just enjoyed the Village, interacting with the other athletes. It’s a great memory.
Your mother also won an Olympic bronze medal – in hockey. Did she give you any advice about competing in the Games before 2008?
No, not really. She told me a few things about the Olympic Games a long time ago when I was a kid, but I don’t really talk about tennis with my mum. I’m sure she was very proud of me though.
What are you most looking forward to about London 2012?
First of all, I’m just hoping to qualify. I want an opportunity to experience that Olympic atmosphere again and to be part of it. When you go to the Games for the first time, you don’t realise how big it is. Once you’ve been there, you know what to expect and you want to experience that atmosphere and spirit again.
What do you think of London?
I usually stay near Wimbledon, but I do like the city. I’ve walked around it a couple of times and it has great energy.
Are there any other events you would like to watch during London 2012?
Definitely. It depends on my schedule, but I’d like to stay in the Village and see other sports. All the athletes are incredible and the Games bring out the best in everybody.
How big an achievement would it be for you to win an Olympic gold medal?
It would be a huge achievement for me. There’s nothing you can compare to winning an Olympic gold medal. You can’t compare Grand Slams and the Olympic Games. An Olympic medal is the dream of any athlete – including tennis players.
You reached a Wimbledon final in 2010 – do you feel like you can play your best tennis there?
I feel pretty comfortable anywhere, as long as I get time to prepare and get used to the conditions. Wimbledon is one of my favourite events – I have lots of great memories there. I like to play at Wimbledon and I really feel confident there.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing tennis?
It depends on how I feel. I like to study and read books. If I’m tired, I might just watch movies or listen to music – things like that, nothing special. On vacations, I like to stay active. I like beach volleyball and I like to watch hockey and basketball.
Who were your sporting heroes when you were growing up?
Yevgeny Kafelnikov was a hero of mine. I always followed him and I still admire him a lot. He’s done great things for Russian tennis – he made it popular and he helped the public learn a lot about the sport. I remember him winning an Olympic gold medal [in Sydney in 2000] and for me, looking up to him, it was always my dream to win a medal at the Games.
What sort of music do you listen to before a match?
Something fast and energetic. I really like Rihanna. I have lots of her songs.
Do you use any social media to keep in touch with fans?
I use Twitter to answer questions and I have an official Facebook page where I post updates and pictures. It doesn’t take long and it’s a great way of communicating.