Monday, March 5, 2012

Sac State coach: Azarenka wasn't kidding around

Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka
Photo by Paul Bauman
   A lot of kids dream of being the No. 1 tennis player in the world.
   Victoria Azarenka, though, was driven to reach the top. Even at 8 years old.
   Growing up in Minsk, Belarus, Azarenka was a coach's dream with legendary self-motivation. She worked incessantly and was never content, always trying to improve.
   Azarenka's dedication paid off with her first Grand Slam singles title in the recent Australian Open and the No. 1 ranking. She is 17-0 with three titles this year entering the BNP Paribas Open, Wednesday through March 18 in Indian Wells.
   "She would say, 'I can't go home. I feel terrible. I can't volley. I need to work on my volley,' " Sacramento State men's coach Slava Konikov, a 50-year-old Minsk native who taught Azarenka from age 8 to 14, said with a heavy accent. "I coach 34 years, and I never see anything like it. Most say, 'I don't have time today.' That's why she's No. 1 now. She told me all the time, 'Coach, let's go.' "
   Azarenka's parents, Alla and Fedor, named their daughter Victoria because it's Latin for victory. Alla, who managed a tennis center, introduced Victoria to the sport at 7 and asked Konikov, an acquaintance, to work with her.
   "She always told me, 'I want to be No. 1,' " said Konikov, who also coached countrymen Max Mirnyi, a former world No. 1 in doubles, and Vladimir Voltchkov, the first qualifier to reach the Wimbledon semifinals (2000) since John McEnroe in 1977. "She give me big energy every practice. ...
   "I tell the (Sac State) guys, 'You need to believe you can be better.' 'Oh, no, Slava, it's tough.' Victoria Azarenka, every practice was like last practice (of her career). It's easy for coach. ...
   "I'm like, 'Come on, you're a kid.' 'I want to be No. 1 -- what I have to do?' 'You have to work five or six hours a day.' "
   No problem. Azarenka, who grew to be 6-foot, practiced five days a week and played matches or tournaments on weekends.
   "She was never sick," Konikov said. "She never missed practice. Same with Mirnyi and Voltchkov. This is very important. She played very fast and hit hard. She told me, 'I want to play like a man, not a girl.' "
   And these were not normal lessons and practice matches.
   "Any ball, if it go out, she play it," Konikov recalled. "She never see lines. She play fence to fence."
   Azarenka did not want a level playing field. She wanted to play with handicaps. Anything she could do to make life on the court tougher on herself, she would. Playing against boys and men. Giving herself only one serve. Giving her opponent the doubles alleys. Starting games at 0-15 or 0-30.
   Azarenka's biggest handicap, though, was built-in. Impatience. If anything, she had too much desire. Konikov recalled the first time he saw Azarenka play.
   "She was very nervous and throwing her racket," he said. "Her problem from the beginning was that after one practice, she wanted to feel she learned something. 'I need to learn the forehand today.' 'No, maybe (it takes) two months or two years.'
   "I told her, 'If you be more patient, you'll be a great tennis player. Tennis is not easy. It's a tough sport.' At 10 or 11, she started to understand."
   Still, Azarenka was never satisfied and needed constant encouragement.
Slava Konikov
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "She was crying every single practice if something was wrong," Konikov continued. "We talked a lot: 'You're great, better than yesterday. You beat this girl.' 'No, she's terrible.' She beat her 6-0, 6-0 but was not excited. Every time, 'No, I want to be better.' "
   In contrast, Konikov mentioned students at the Spare Time Junior Tennis Academy, where he also teaches in Sacramento.
   "(I say,) 'You're missing so many balls. How do you feel?' 'I feel great.' 'Maybe you need to start crying. Why you're not No. 1?' " Konikov said.
   With her talent, size and desire, Azarenka clearly was headed in that direction. 
   "She wasn't my first student," Konikov noted. "I had Mirnyi and Voltchkov. Max said he wanted to play with her (when she was) 11 or 12. Max was (23 or 24). He said (afterward) she can be No.1."
   Tatsiana Kapshai, a Minsk native who plays No. 1 singles as a senior at Sac State, trained with Azarenka from age 12 to 15 at the National Tennis Center. They often played doubles together, winning tournaments in Poland and Portugal, and met once in singles in the 16s.
   "I didn't get too many games," recalled Kapshai, a two-time Big Sky Conference MVP who reached the second round of the NCAA championships last year.
   Kapshai, 23, said Azarenka "always (was) ahead in her game of other girls her age. Plus, she never had enough tennis. She always wanted more, more, more."
Tatsiana Kapshai
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Like Konikov, Kapshai was amazed by Azarenka's work ethic.
   "She was definitely born with all the skill needed, but it also took a lot of work," she said. "Since she was really young, she was always working a lot. It's nature and nurture. She never gave up. Even if she had a bad day, she would go and practice."
  Maria Meliuk, another Sac State senior from Minsk, plays No. 6 singles for the Hornets. She faced Azarenka once, losing 6-0, 6-0 at age "10 or 11," she said.
   "I knew many coaches who said she'd be top 10 (in the world). They saw it coming," Meliuk said.
  Belarus' tennis tradition inspired Azarenka, according to Konikov. In particular, she had Natalia Zvereva as a role model. Zvereva, now 40, was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame two years ago after amassing 20 Grand Slam titles, 18 in women's doubles and two in mixed doubles, and climbing to No. 5 in the world in singles.
   "Victoria watched how she played and practiced," Konikov said. "She said, 'I want to be like Natalia.' "
  Azarenka's grandmother also has been a major influence. Azarenka, distraught after losing to Li Na in the fourth round of last year's Australian Open, almost quit tennis before receiving a pep talk from her grandmother.
  "My grandmother is incredible person," Azarenka, 22, said after beating Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals of this year's Australian Open. "She worked all her life until she was 71. We had to make her sign a paper that she's going to give up her job ... because she would get up at five in the morning and still go to work.
   "It's just amazing to see how much people work, and we are here playing tennis and sometimes complaining about little things. I lost a tennis match. So what? I mean, life goes on, and you keep going. It's just a tennis match. You have to look in a bigger picture."
   Konikov, tired of working 12- to 14-hour days coaching Belarus' Davis Cup squad and junior national girls team, moved to Sacramento in 2004. He became the Sac State men's coach the following year.     
   "I was really sad when he had to leave for the States ... " Azarenka said after beating fellow shrieker Maria Sharapova to win the 2010 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, foreshadowing this year's Australian Open final. "He's a big part of my career. ... We had so much fun together. He really helped me out, especially when my parents didn't have much money."
   Azarenka described Konikov as "really funny. I remember one time I was practicing with one of the guys, and (the player) kept spinning his racket on his finger. It was really pissing (Konikov) off, and he smacked a ball right at him."
   Shortly after Konikov moved to Sacramento, Azarenka relocated to Scottsdale, Ariz., to train because then-Phoenix Coyotes goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, a family friend, lived there. Khabibulin is from Sverdlovsk, Russia, but his wife, also named Victoria, is Belarusian, and their daughter, Sasha, played junior tennis.
   Konikov watched this year's Australian Open final on television from 2:30 to 4 a.m. in a Tucson, Ariz., hotel room. The Sac State men played Arizona at 9 a.m. that day.
   "I didn't sleep all night," Konikov said.
   Azarenka, playing in her first Grand Slam singles final, demolished Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, 6-3, 6-0. As Konikov watched the telecast, his life flashed before his eyes.
   "The camera showed Voltchkov coaching Sharapova. (It was) my student working with Sharapova and my student playing against Sharapova," he said wistfully. "It was very nice."
   Konikov called Azarenka's mother afterward and spoke to Victoria the next day.
   "She said, 'Slava, I'm No. 1.' "


  1. Hey friends check out BNP paribas open schedule, order of play and draws here.. and you can find regular updates about scores etc here

    BNP Paribas Open 2012 Schedule

    1. This is another testimony on how Chief Dr Lucky cured my HIV disease. Do you need a cure for your HIV disease? Do you want to be cured from your cancer disease? Or you want to be free from any type of disease. Kindly visit his website , he just cured my HIV disease and I’m very grateful to him, he is the only herbalist that can cure you.  
      WhatsApp number : +2348132777335 
      Via Email :
      Thank you all for reading,
      God bless"

  2. Awakened by Stephanie Spiritual Teacher and Life Coach Divine Masculine Class

  3. MY STORY HERE IS REAL AND GENUINE. My name is Adams Vienna and i am here to testify about Great Mother who brought back my man to me when he broke up with me because of another woman who he met at his place of work. Great Mother is a very powerful, real and unique woman with special powers. I tried to get help from many places and sources to bring back my man but nothing worked but when i contacted Great Mother, she made me smile again by bringing my man back to me with her special powers.. If you are experiencing any problems in your marriage, relationship, and you have any similar problem to this, contact this Great Woman now she will help you. Here is her website:   and here is her email address:   and you can also contact her now on her own Whatsapp number: +17025514367 You can either contact her on her website, email or her whatsapp number. Thank you Great Mother.  

  4. I have never seen anything that has worked so effective like Chief Dr Lucky spell that was able to bring my lover back to me within 48 hours. I run into luck on that beautiful day that i found Chief Dr Lucky contact details on an article that someone wrote about Chief Dr Lucky i had no choice that to contact and trust him. Chief Dr Lucky shocked me because i was not expecting to get a positive result as fast as that because the way my boyfriend left me was terrible, he lift me for my friend and i was told by Chief Dr Lucky that she used a black magic spell on him. Since the return of my lover i have made a promise that i will write out Chief Dr Luck on the internet and his contact details are +2348132777335 and via email: . His website:

  5. I never thought I will come in contact with a real and potential hacker until I knew   brillianthackers800 at Gmail and he delivered a professional job,he is intelligent and understanding to control jobs that comes his way
    You can message on his number (385) 2501115,
    Contact him and be happy

  6. Investing online has been a main source of income,that's why knowledge plays a very important role in humanity,you don't need to over work yourself for money.All you need is the right information,and you could build your own wealth from the comfort of your home!Binary trading is dependent on timely signals,assets or controlled strategies which when mastered increases chance of winning up to 90%-100% with trading. It’s possible to earn $10,000 to $20,000 trading weekly-monthly,just file a complaint with  Robert,I had almost given up on everything about binary trading and ever getting my lost funds back,till i met with him,with his help now i have my lost funds back to my bank account and I can now trade successfully with his profitable strategies and software!! Email: or or  whatsApp: +44 7466 770724

  7. I Want To Appreciate Dr OYAGU for his great deeds, I Was Diagnosed With type 2 Herpes Virus Last year, And I Was Looking For Solution To Be Cured Luckily I Saw Testimonies On How Dr OYAGU Cure Herpes Virus I Decided To Contact Dr OYAGU I Contacted Him He Prepared A Herbal Medicine Portion And Sent It To Me, I Started The Herbal Medicine For My Health. He Gave Me Step By Step Instructions On How To Apply It, When I Applied It As Instructed, I Was Cured Of This Deadly Herpes Within 2 weeks, I Am Now Herpes Negative. My Brother And Sister I No That There Are So Many People That Have The Same Herpes Virus Please contact Dr OYAGU To Help You Too, And Help Me To Thank Dr OYAGU For Cure Me, I’m Cured By Dr. OYAGU Herbal Medicine, His Contact or visit his website Cell Whatsapp Number +2348101755322 thank you

     I have been battling this Herpes disease for almost 3 years now....I tried all possible means to get cure from my Herpes Disease but all to be in vain until i saw a post in a health forum about a herbal Dr Emu who prepare herbal medicine to cure all kind of diseases including Herpes Disease, at first i doubted if it was real but decided to give it a try...when i contact Dr Emu via his email (  write him and reply me explain how the process work so after ordering for the medicine I got it within 3/4 working days through DHL Delivery and I took it according to the way Dr Emu instructed, I was so happy after 2 week I took the medicine there was very big change in my health when I was done with the process I go for test, I found out I am negative...Herpes patients should also get in touch with this herbalist Dr Emu to get rid of these Herpes Virus forever his whatsapp number +2347012841542. Website: 

  9. Really very happy to say,your post is very interesting to read.I never stop myself to say something about it.You’re doing a great Job.Keep it up

    Car Rental in Goa
    Car Rental in Panjim
    Self Drive Cars in Goa
    Car Rental in Goa

  10. Great and Amazing blog.I really thanks for giving us better information.

    Bike Rental in Goa
    Rent a Bike Goa

  11. Hello everyone, Are you looking for a professional crypto trader, forex and binary manager who will help you trade and manager your account with good and massive amount of profit in return. you can contact TD Ameritrade for your investment plan, for he helped me earned 8,500usd with little investment funds. TD Ameritrade you're the best trader I can recommend for anyone who wants to invest and trade with a genuine trader, he also helps in recovery of loss can contact him on his Email:
    Via whatsapp: (+12166263236)
    I advice you shouldn't hesitate. He's great.


Please help defray travel expenses
Thanks for your donation!