Briefly, I’d like to tell you what’s been going on the last two months. In my last post I was telling you that I was on my way to America and had a bad cold. In the warm climate I started to get well fast, but kept coughing for six weeks. I will not go into details about the American series because it went relatively quiet without any big adventures. I remember the American series because in all tournaments at Indian Wells in Miami and Charleston I was playing night matches on the center courts and always finishing after midnight. I’m not used to playing late in the evening. The last time I played a night match was a year ago in Pattaya and here I had to play every match at night. But I got invaluable experience. I also played doubles with Yaroslava Shevedova in Miami in preparation for the Olympics.

A funny thing happened in Charleston. I was playing a first round match against Jelena Dokic who was playing well even though her hand was hurt—which can be a dangerous moment for a tennis player. An opponent who has an injury may play very well and make some unbelievable shots, but you have to ignore the good play and hold to your original game plan. In this case, I was 4–2 up in the first set and Yelena had called for the trainer but was still playing. And she served so well that the score was 4–3, and it was my turn to serve. At 30–15 in the next game, after a long rally, I went to the net and won the point. As I made my way slowly back to the service line my head was full of thoughts about my next serve. Without looking at the court, I walked to the back fence talking to myself. Then I heard from the stands someone shouting my name. And another shout from another place in the stands. I thought it was so nice that some people were cheering for me, but I kept talking to myself because it was important for me to concentrate. Suddenly I heard the voice of Alina (my coach) and I turned around to see that my opponent had left the court and was standing behind the umpire’s chair after having forfeited the match. The umpire and everyone else was laughing.

After the American series I returned to Moscow and rested a little while before flying to the Spanish academy to get ready for the clay-court season. Generally, at academies there are pluses and minuses, but the main advantage is that you can accomplish a lot. My clay-court series included the following tournaments: Estoril , Madrid, Rome, a one-week break, and Rolland Garros. In Etoril I played well and reached the quarter finals, then lost a difficult and disappointing three-set match to Karin Knapp. In doubles with Yaroslava, we reached the final. Of course, it was very nice to play in the final, but it took away from my singles preparation for Madrid. I had no time to recuperate for the next tournament and arrived in Madrid very tired. I played on the blue clay only one hour. In the first round I lost to Katya Makarova. In doubles with Yara, we reached the quarter finals. Certainly the organizers made this an interesting series because of the blue clay. I know that many players did not like this novelty, but I personally did not experience any discomfort because of it.

Before leaving Madrid, I was sitting with Claudia, the mother of Denis Istomin, and she told me that Denis had already played against almost all the top ten players. I said that I had also played with almost all top-ten players but not the Williams sisters, which I wanted to. Then, the second day after arriving in Rome, the schedule had me play Serena. As soon as I had said so, it happened. I was very excited at the opportunity, and then I got sick with a high fever. What should I do? Forfeit and perhaps never have the chance to play Serena? No, I decided to play anyway. For two days I did not leave my room and requested not to play on Monday. But on Monday I was scheduled to play doubles against Nadia Petrova and Masha Kirilenko. Right before the match I went to the doctor to take my temperature and the thermometer showed over 38C or 100F. I told my doubles partner, Olga Govortsova, that I was not feeling well but would still try to do my best, knowing that I had to play with Olga (since we had never played together) and that I still had to get ready for my match the next day with Serena.

Olga and I lost the doubles match, but we played well. The next day my match with Serena was scheduled late in the evening and due to a long men’s match before us, we started close to midnight. Serena is a very moody person. Sometimes you can chat with her in the dressing room, and sometimes she ignores you completely. Before our match she was walking around with a frowning expression and looked at me like a wolf. This continued until I was running out of the dressing room (since I am always late and hurrying at the last minute). As I pushed open the door going out of the dressing room, it almost hit Serena who happened to be walking by just at that moment. She jumped and said, “Oee,” at which she and her team and I all started laughing. Serena then said, “It seems you want to kill me before the match even begins.” This relieved the tension.

On the court I felt the full power of her shots. In the beginning it was very difficult because I was so weak from being in bed. Then I played pretty well, but physically it was terribly difficult even though we had many good rallies. Even though I lost, I was very satisfied that I had gone ahead with the match and gotten the chance to play Serena.