Former world number 3 Nadia Petrova greets her Olympic mother for helping her introduce her to tennis, fueling her love of travel and starting a tradition of media success that she hopes will continue into her third generation with her daughter Victoria.
My mother was a very successful athlete, a runner in the 200 and 400 meter relays. He competed in a couple of Olympics and, in 1976, was a bronze medalist in Montreal.
When I was born, both of my parents worked as track and field coaches for the Soviet Union, which meant that we were among the few who were able to travel the world. The country was closed, so it was only possible to travel through sport, and so my mother had been to the United States, Africa, various European countries, Canada. She told me about the places where she had gone and this instilled absolutely the love and passion for travel that I have today.
I’ve always wanted to follow in his footsteps in sports, whether it was swimming or athletics, but my parents got into tennis a lot when they started watching Grand Slams on television, so that was the sport I chose.
had a lot of success right away; I was a very coordinated child, so I picked it up quickly and enjoyed it. When I started playing games and entering tournaments, my mother traveled with me until I was around 21 years old. It was at every junior event, my first ITF tournament, sitting in the stands or on the bleachers. Off the pitch, he spent a lot of time with me in my conditioning, in my physical form, so it was crucial for my development as a player.
At the same time, being that tough coach meant that she required me a lot as an athlete. Every game was important, every tournament was important and sometimes it seemed that it was never enough. After losing a game, I remember feeling like a little girl because, even if she wasn’t at the tournament, I knew she was watching on television or following the results live on the computer, and so I would have heard from her shortly after, telling me things I didn’t want necessarily feel in those moments, being very hard on me. It was almost as if I had to figure out why I had lost the game before I even spoke.
I don’t know if it was just the Russian mentality, but I didn’t have the appreciation and encouragement. I had a lot of ‘This wasn’t good enough; the next one has to be better. ‘It was like hard love, and it could have ended up putting more pressure.
Towards the end of my career, it softened a bit because I had played for so many years and had reached the highest levels of this very demanding sport. He started to see what a toll tennis player does on the body because the tour sounds all year with very few breaks compared to something like athletics, which had a much shorter season. I’ve had a lot of serious injuries in my career, so it certainly wasn’t a smooth ride. Once I turned 30, he was trying to move on to motherhood and start a family, travel less. He wanted me to have that private life off the pitch.
In my mind and in my head, I wanted to be as successful as my mother, to play the Olympic Games and win a medal. I remember seeing his photos in old magazines, but it wasn’t until I was older that I was able to see a small clip of the race itself when I was in Canada for the Coupe Rogers. It was she who crossed the finish line for her team.
I played two Olympic games alone, the last of which was in London, where I played singles and doubles with Maria Kirilenko. A medal was always on my mind, especially with Maria, where we felt that it was not something we had to win, but we were trying to do everything we could to get one. We had won a lot of titles together at the beginning of the season and felt quite confident.
Playing the Olympics on the grass, it wasn’t a surface that played entirely at our strengths, but we went through several very difficult games and managed to win a medal, and playing Wimbledon made it even more special because we felt like we we had won a Grand Slam in that game of bronze medals.
My mother watched every game and was so proud to see us win a medal, but even then she said it was fantastic to have won a bronze medal like her, but the next one had to be better.
It would end in death the following year, which affected me a lot and ultimately led to my decision to retire before the next Rio Olympics. While I’m disappointed that I can’t do better, I’m proud to have it paired. Maybe my daughter can follow my example if she becomes an athlete. Apparently sporting success flows in our blood, so it could end up being a nice family tradition.