Join Date: Mar 2006
Re: Zhenya's news and articles ~let's gossip on Zhenya ~
An article on LR's blog:
Anna’s cousin not afraid of Kournikova ‘curse’
By CARLOS FRíAS
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
DELRAY BEACH - He doesn’t share a last name with his famous cousin, but Evgeny Korolev doesn’t hide from the Kournikova connection.
Anna Kournikova was successful. She was famous. And on any street corner in Moscow, she is still as well known as the President. None of the baggage she might bring seems to faze him: that some say she never lived up to her potential; that he has to play in her shadow; that, at 21, he, too, is still looking for a big breakthrough.
“That’s nothing tough, to grow up with Anna,” he said, almost laughing at the question. “Honestly, I would love to get that rep. All of it. I’ll take it. … She was the idol.”
Because most important, she is family. And Korolev has learned to appreciate what having the support of family can mean when your tennis game fails you, when injury threatens your livelihood, when you watch your brother, who is your trainer and closest friend, hold the tiny hand of his dying infant son.
Those are the things Korolev has learned about how family can make him a better tennis player - and not the other way around.
On a Wednesday afternoon, after upsetting American Robert Kendrick, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, in the Delray Beach Championship, Korolev stood across from his next opponent. The big forehand didn’t faze him and Korolev went, as usual, to his tough backhand for a winner. He walked around the ping-pong table, his brother, Alexey, lowered his head and Evgeny flicked him right on the top of the head.
“I am the better player,” Alexey, 28, insists, rubbing the spot on his head where the loser always gets flicked.
“Who won today, huh?” Evgeny said.
“Well, it’s one-to-one, now,” Alexey said, and Evgeny admits the crown of his own head still hurts from yesterday’s loss.
They may be seven years apart, but those years evaporate when you’re as close as these two.
“We’re like twin brothers,” Alexey said.
They shared a room as boys, whispering into the night when their parents thought they were asleep. And today, Alexey is his trainer, and Evgeny lives with his brother, sister-in-law and their 2-year-old son, Alex, in Germany. And when they’re not working, they’re playing hockey on the frozen lake by their house, boxing and playing soccer.
They keep all the training in house. Their father, also named Evgeny, is his coach.
When something goes wrong, family is who comes to the rescue as they did the last two years when a botched hernia operation threatened Korolev’s career.
Ranked as high as 63rd in April of 2007, he dropped out of the top 100 and several times told his brother he wanted to quit as he struggled through.
“Then, after two days, he would say, ‘Alexey, I have to play tomorrow,’” his brother recalled.
He bounced back and finished in the Top 100 last year, culminated by reaching his first semifinal, at his home tournament, the Dusseldorf Challenge, in September.
But a year that was one to celebrate became one to mourn.
Alexey’s second child, another boy, Andy, was born in December with a congenital heart defect. At two weeks old, he needed open heart surgery that he would not survive. Evgeny held his brother together on the days when Alexey could not otherwise get out of bed. And when Alexey’s 2-year-old son, Alex, would ask his father to go play with him and his uncle, Evgeny, it was all that kept him going.
“When he looks you in the eye, it makes you want to go, to live,” Alexey said.
The “family tragedy,” the only way the Korolevs refer to it, left a mark on Evgeny that has affected even how he thinks about tennis. He doesn’t set goals for the year anymore. He focuses only on one day, and playing his best that day.
“I’m happy to practice and play and feel good after,” he said.
“Now I see life like not before,” Evgeny told his brother.
It’s enough that he can look to the stands on any given day and see his parents, his brother, his nephew, and this week, his aunt Alla, Anna Kournikova’s mother who lives in Palm Beach, cheering him on. And they’re more important to live up to than any legacy.
“As long as they write about me, I’m happy. Good, bad, whatever,” Korolev said. “I want to make it, so I have to be tough.”
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un pour tous, tous pour un