Veronika Kudermetova: “I advise tennis juniors to control emotions and play it cool”

Veronika Kudermetova, TokenStars’ first signed tennis player, is a 20-year-old WTA #66 in doubles and #196 in singles. A winner of 19 WTA & ITF tournaments (3 in singles, 16 in doubles) and bronze medalist at the World Students Games 2015 talks about her early career steps and future ambitions.

How did you start playing tennis?

I started by chance. Before I was 7, I‘d lived in Kazan. I was spending summer in our country house, and a friend of mine invited me to play tennis, because she got bored playing alone. Not only I’d never had a tennis racket in my hand, but I had absolutely no idea of what it was about.

However, the idea of playing sounded more attractive that working in my grandmother’s garden. I had lots of energy, and surprisingly, I even managed to hit the ball. I enjoyed the feeling of the game very much.

Veronika with father, Eduard Kudermetov, Russia’s successful hockey player

Was it then when you decided to build up a professional career?

From Kazan we moved to Magnitogorsk. My father was a professional hockey player, he played for Metallurg hockey club. In Magnitogorsk I was attending a “Health” sports class initially meant for elderly people. Soon my father signed a contract with TSKA Moscow and was invited to the capital.

As part of his contract he asked for some benefits for me: I was enlisted to train in Tennis Center (*in Russia, as part of Soviet heritage, prestigious and versatile public places, where different sports or arts were put together, under the same roof, are called ‘palaces’, for example, Palace of Sports, or Palace of Culture)

At that time I was hardly a good player. I had no rank, because I hadn’t participated in any contests. It was difficult to get there without any support. Maybe, I could have tried to enroll to the tennis club myself, without my father asking for his daughter, by it would have taken much more effort and time.

Who covered your training costs and participation in tournaments?

Initially I didn’t travel a lot — maybe, 2 or 3 times within six months. All the tournaments I took part in were in Russia. That’s why we had no problems with covering the travel costs. Financial problems began when I began to travel every month, sometimes these tournaments were held abroad. My father was looking for sponsors to part cover the travel costs.

Rosneft was one of my sponsors at the time. They covered my participation in competitions during the whole year. Later they stopped doing it, because I had to place their logo on my uniform, but that would be a violation of my contract with Nike.

Actually from Nike I could have only my outfit and minimum financial support of $10,000. It was not enough to travel to tennis tournaments abroad.

Sometimes I simply didn’t participate in some competitions, as I couldn’t afford to pay for my travel. For example, I had to cancel my trip to Australia to participate in an international tennis tournament. Australia is quite a remote destination, and I was not able to pay for the tickets for my coach. The idea of going there alone scared me.

I participated in international junior tennis tournaments only twice — once in the USA, and one more time in France — Roland Garros. By the way, for juniors it’s cheaper to participate in tournaments like these — a host party pays for accommodation, and the Russian Tennis Federation partially covers your tickets.

What did you get of participating in international competitions?

I finished playing tennis as a junior early and moved on to senior level. I did not want to waste time and my parents’ money. If I had continued playing as a junior for at least six months, I could have ranked in the top-20.

Veronika with Roger Federer, ATP #3 and 19x Grand Slam titles’ winner

Besides rankings, international tournaments are a good chance to practice your skills, and, of course, it is the spirit.

For example, at Australia Open and Wimbledon, the tournaments I wasn’t able to come to participate in, junior and senior level competitions were held together.

It was really cool to play together with tennis celebrities — you are playing, improving your skills and watch them play.

When I moved on to seniors, I faced other challenges. I lost the support from the Russian Tennis Federation. Last year they provided at least partial funding, but this year they didn’t. Due to their support I managed to move up from #400 to #170, and in doubles I ranked among the top 100.

Things probably changed when you signed a contract with IMG, one of top TMAs?

Frankly speaking, this contract didn’t give me any advantages, it was my parents who funded most of training and tournaments. IMG only provided me with outfit and rackets. They also offered me an opportunity to train in the USA.

In fact, I had the same outfit supplied by the brands I had advertised already before I signed up with IMG. So I had a contract, but they didn’t do their job.

You are the first tennis player to sign a contract with TokenStars. What do you expect from this project?

I hope TokenStars will support juniors. Such support is very important for beginners, especially if they don’t have much money. What I expect is promotion support, I want to gain popularity beyond the tennis community.

What would your advice to junior tennis players be?

I often see young tennis players overreact to their defeats and failures. It is too early to think they should be the best, or if they failed or lost some game, their career is over. Senior level tournaments are a tougher challenge. So I want to advise to all juniors to control their emotions and play it cool. All they should do is work hard and move forward.

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