Elena was exactly what I expected. Classy, articulate, and wise and, actually, pretty funny. An absolutely pleasant person. After spending two weeks off the courts to heal up (during which time she traveled around Europe visiting family), she says she feels "good" and "ready". When asked if she kept up with Wimbledon during her break, "To be honest, this time I didn't watch Wimbledon. I was just too disappointed that I'm not there."
It was nice to hear that she feels the support from fans regarding their/our desire for her to win her first Grand Slam. In fact, when the question was asked, she got a very "aw shucks/wow, that's so nice!" sly smile. It made me happy.
Towards the end of the interview things turned to the topic of Dinara, with whom she practiced with the day before.
Her general thoughts on what Dinara needs to do to get back:
"I think Dinara, she always used to worked really hard. Even when she was a little girl and right now I'm sure it's not easy for her to come back after a back problem. But I practiced with her and it looks like she's in good shape. She took some time off, she feels refreshed, and she feels like she's ready to play. All she needs right now is to play matches and get confidence."
"Well I talked to her I think she's good enough. She said she took some time off during Wimbledon and now she feels like she really wants to get back on the court playing these matches. It's good to see because she played way too many couple years ago so she probably overplayed."
Thoughts on whether the pressure of winning a Slam had an effect of Dinara:
"Well I think that in the beginning of the year she was hoping to play that well. But she didn't imagine it would be *that* well, you know what I mean? Winning week after week, without any break, that's what it cost. Some injuries, back problems. The way she was playing on clay courts, winning so many matches, she was physically ready to go and she couldn't stop from winning these matches. She was in great shape."
And finally, on whether Dinara's coaching stint with Zeljko was too intense or negative:
"Well it's hard to say. I think Dinara should answer this question because she's the only one who knows how much he put into her game. And how much he was involved in the success. But I think he was working really hard with her. As you can see he was really following her game and he was trying to help her and trying to improve her game and she did improve her game a lot. So it's very difficult.... It was a very unique situation, put it this way. She was winning so many matches. And I think they were both a little overexcited, I would say, about these results. And so maybe it wasn't the smart decision to play so many tournaments. But at the same time, I mean, she wanted to play. Nobody pushed her to do this. So I think in the end it comes to your decision. And I think she's old enough to make it, right?"
And now a funny exchange:
Q: You have any sense of it's history? When the first circuit was formed that becamse the WTA, San Francisco was the first stop.
A: Oh really? I didn't know that. It's very special.
Q: There were only, what 8 players? I think the first draw was 8 players and the winner won $1000. Billie Jean King.
A: I don't know why we made the draw so big. [laughter] I mean, three matches? That's good enough.
I hope that translates in black and white. It was pretty funny at the time.