Belorussian tennis star tells about tennis, feminism and her modeling career
These days Olga Govortsova plays in Budapest trying to help the national team to qualify for Fed Cup World Group II Playoff. And she does it with success. Last season wasn’t brilliant to say the least, as a result Olga was ranked somewhere in the middle of the TOP 200. But despite these setbacks Govortsova has played on.
Olga is always in the lists of the most beautiful tennis players of today. And looking at her photos, it’s easy to understand why. Olga was asked some questions about appearance, money in tennis, reasons for feminism in the sport world and even about patriotism criteria. But all in all, the first question was about injuries…
— It’s unusual to see you in the middle of TOP 200…
— The reasons for that are some problems with health. Almost the whole year I was fighting against my knee injury. I had a recovery process in the USA, and only in December I started preparing for the season. I hope for the better.
— When can we expect to see you in TOP 100 or TOP 50?
— According to my plans at the end of 2015.
— You recover in the USA, your native town is Pinsk, but you live in Minsk. Where’s your house by the way?
— I started playing tennis in Pinsk. When I was 10 I moved to Minsk, but recently I have spent much time in the US. But my parents and friends live in Minsk. I always return to Belarus with great pleasure. I can say that I have two houses, in the USA and in Belarus.
— More and more often you are in different tops: the girl of the week/day, the most beautiful tennis player… And it’s not due to your brilliant results in tennis. How can you explain that?
— I don’t follow those lists. Maybe it’s due to the partnership with an American modelling agency. And now many pictures are in the Internet. But they are not so abundant, because it’s difficult to combine sport and modelling. Tennis is more important for me.
— Can you tell more about that agency…
— It’s situated in Los Angeles. Sometimes I do a job they propose me. For instance I’m modelling for one or another brand. But I can’t spend much time on that. Maybe when I give up tennis, I’ll be a model for real, but of course in case I look great for that.
— Is it your dream job?
— In my case it’s not just pleasure. It’s good money. In Belarus or in Russia it’s hard to het money for modelling. And it’s much easier to do it abroad. I think here you should know some useful people to become a model, and there the modelling business is more open.
— Again and again you play in Fed Cup. Why do you do that every year?
— It’s not a burden for me. And it’s not hard to join the team one or two times a year. Moreover, it’s an honour to represent Belarus. It’s always something different, I experience new feelings, I become a patriot and just get fun. I hope in the nearest feature we’ll qualify for the World Playoff. It’ll be fantastic to play in Minsk where there are so many fans.
— There’s a myth that a tennis player is considered to be a patriot depending on their will to play in Fed Cup or in Davis Cup. Do you agree?
— Here you should take into consideration some conditions. Not always it’s so easy to become a member of the team. For example this time we play Fed Cup after the Australian Open. And those players who played more matches in Melbourne have some difficulties to join the team and show the best. Earlier we played Fed Cup in April, and it was more convenient. All in all, every player has their own reasons for playing in the national team or not. Moreover, sometimes there are conflicts within the team, so it’s not a good thing to generalize.
— Is it okay for you to have an obligation to play a certain number of matches in Fed Cup to qualify for the Olympic Games?
— For me it’s not hard to play two times in four years. Those who had invented the rules considered it right to play in the national team to have a possibility to play in the Olympics. And It’s okay.
— Is your brother Ilya still your coach?
— In the USA I have the support of local coaches. In Minsk Vladimir Voltchkov and Vladimir Perko help me. But I go to the tournaments with my brother, at the same time trying to learn from every coach I work with.
— What are advantages and disadvantages of working with a relative?
— When we grow up it becomes easier to get on well. When we are young we don’t desire to listen to the parents. And then we perceive differently the situation and follow their advice. The advantages are evident: a relative knows you from the very childhood, you can trust him more, than other people.
— In many tournaments you play both singles and doubles. Don’t you want to concentrate on something particular?
— Recently due to my problems with the knee I played more single matches. I lost my place in TOP 100. Of course my priority is to play in singles, but when I lack practice I should play also in doubles. It’s an additional training and additional money.
— What’s the process of choosing a partner in tennis?
— Every tennis player has their own choice. We choose, practice and decide whether it’s comfortable to play together. I played great with three girls for a long time. In tennis we constantly have some changes. Some players retire, new players appear. So we are always in search.
— Many people are shocked by tennis players’ earnings. But there are many other things like taxes, outfit expenditures and so on…
— Taxation is not the most horrible thing. Few people understand that we spend our own money travelling around the world. We pay for tickets, hotels (for the coaching staff’s rooms included). Moreover, we pay much money to our coaches. If someone estimates our earnings thinking of a settled life, yes, we have high salaries. But our expanses are incredible. And it’s apart from taxation.
We pay taxes in the country we play. We should pay 30% or even more from the sum we get. In Belarus we don’t pay taxes, what’s the sense in playing tennis in the country where there’s double taxation?!
— If you are a TOP 200 tennis player, can you get any net cash returns?
— Of course it’s impossible. If you are not in TOP 100 there’s no sense in playing tennis. Sometimes you can be ranked 200th due to injuries and then you come back improving your financial situation. But if you are not in TOP 100, you can’t get good money. If there are some sponsors that pay your expenditures, it’s great.
— Do any sponsors support you?
— This year I have the support of the Belarusian tennis federation. Before that I spent my own money.
— Does it mean that to have tennis as a profession it’s a must to be in TOP 100?
— At least in TOP 100. Every player has their own needs. If you want to live great you should be in TOP 50 or in TOP 10. Here there are no boundaries.
— Did anyone offer you to change citizenship?
— Yes, many times. It was many years ago. I didn’t think seriously about it. My parents live in Belarus, here there is everything I like, how can I change it for something different?
— Olga Barabanschikova said that one of the reasons for leaving tennis was feeling lonely. What about you?
— In this sense I differ. Tennis is an individual type of sports that makes you travelling a lot. Tennis players meet their family rarely. But no one obliges you to do that. If you like tennis, work. All the best tennis players made their choices. Maybe sometimes they feel lonely, but it’s better to be a lonely top notch player than an employee who works all day long. We accustom to this way of life from the very childhood. And then we can’t stand being at the same place all the time without travelling. Being every time at home is more annoying than travelling.
— Do you often have to explain where Belarus is?
— Ten years ago that question was a common thing. But in Europe they never asked. Far abroad people knew nothing about Belarus. Nowadays I am not asked that type of questions. Almost everyone knows where Belarus is, many people visit Minsk.
— Which countryman are you proud of most?
— I don’t follow them. If I know someone in person, I watch their matches. And every time I see Belarusians abroad with great pleasure. I have no close friends among sportsmen. I know some hockey players. In New York I met Misha Grabovski. If I’m in the city he’s playing in, I can visit the match to support him.
— Some time ago Eugene Bouchard and Serena Williams were asked to turn around to show their outfits. Billie Jean King called that sexism. Can you comment on this?
— I haven’t even heard about that. It’s ok to turn around to show the outfit. I would do that, it has nothing common with sexism. Many players dance when they win, turn around, what’s wrong with that? Billie Jean King is older, at her times they had no anything like that, and maybe it was the reason for such a reaction.
— What do you think about equal salaries for men and women in the tennis world?
— Ha, of course I’m for equal payments. Men say they play more sets that’s why they should earn more in Grand Slams. But in ATP they have 3-4 tournaments a week, and we have only two. In WTA it’s much more difficult to have a chance to play in a tournament and get money. I consider equal payment a just thing.
— Don’t you think in tennis there are no anymore hooligans and homosexuals? Tennis is not a show anymore…
— Outside the court we meet such people, but everyone cares about their reputation. On the court there’s no sense in fooling, after that it’s difficult to recover composure. Moreover, you may be fined. And it’s all live on the TV.
— Does tennis depend much on the TV and advertisers?
— Everything depends on the country.
In Belarus tennis is not so popular. In the USA people adore tennis. Our channels broadcast only Grand Slam’s matches and some other great tournaments’ quarterfinals. Maybe it would be better to broadcast more. Tennis is broadcast not as much as football or hockey…
— You travelled a lot. What region is closer to your heart?
— California. I’m nuts about it. But it’s strange, because when I am there I want to leave it, and when I leave, I want to come back. Maybe I lived there in my last life. I like everything about California: air, food, and environment. It’s the only place where I can live all year round. The weather is fine there.
— Surely you like the Californication series.
— Oh, I haven’t even watched them. I like watching movies and reading books in Russian. I can go to the cinema to watch an American movie, but as for series, only in Russian. I liked series named “Fizruk” (physical education teacher) and “Kuhnya” (the Kitchen).
— What tennis style do you like?
— When you grow up, you have no idols anymore. I adored watching Lindsay Davenpor when I was young. I wanted to play like she did.
— You had a chance to play against her…
— Yes, it was in 2008 in my first final. I was crazy about the idea to defeat her. Before the match it was said that I liked her, and in her final speech Lindsay mentioned that. It was really nice.
— Whose leaving was a pity for you?
— It was a surprise when Marion Bartoli decided to retire. Na Li also left tennis at the peak of her career. She played great, and suddenly left tennis…
— Do you think about the future?
— Sometimes yes, but I try not to think about retiring. It disturbs me.
Text by Pressball
Pictures by Olga-govortsova.com