Bondarenko sisters put Ukraine on tennis map

Updated: 2008-02-13 07:27

PARIS: The squabbling is a thing of the past and Ukrainian sisters Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko are reaping the rewards.

The pair from Kharkov are living the tennis dream in 2008.

They captured their first doubles title at the Australian Open, then headed home and won the deciding rubber which helped the Ukraine win its Fed Cup tie against Belgium.

The historic victory, which earned them the prestigious President's Award, means Ukraine could seal a spot in the elite World Group for the first time in April's play-offs.

It was then on to France where, in between their shopping expeditions described in detail on their WTA blog, they notched up a second doubles title, easily beating Czech pair Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlirova 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the Paris Indoor Open.

The key to their recent success is simple, they insist.

"We don't fight on court any more. Just try to concentrate on the game and not each other," explained 21-year-old brunette Kateryna.

"Almost every match we fought a little bit. For a few games we didn't even talk, so we lost our concentration.

"We always get really angry at each other when we play. We used to throw our racquets, say bad words... it never ends well. In tournaments we try to stay calm but in practice it's pretty bad!"

Blonde Alona, 23, added: "At the beginning with Kateryna we didn't understand each other on court and now that we've been playing together for two years the communication is better."

It's not surprising that passions run high as tennis is in their blood.

Parents Natalia and Vladimir are both coaches, while older sister Valeria, 25, also a professional tennis player, helps with their training.

Their success has led to comparisons with Venus and Serena Williams, which 22nd-ranked Alona, and Kateryna, ranked 43, find flattering.

"I don't think it's possible to compare them and us," said Kateryna, who reached the quarterfinal of the singles in Paris.

"Just we are sisters and they are sisters. For sure it's better to win with your sister.

"Hopefully one day we can do as well as they have. I hope we can play each other in a Grand Slam final one day!"

Off court, however, they insist they are the best of friends with matching tastes and nose rings.

And despite the arguments the hardest is when they face each other on the other side of the net which hasn't happened in over two years with Kateryna leading 3-2.

"We hate playing each other," said Kateryna.

"It's really difficult for me. I don't feel I can beat my sister because she's the oldest and wants to win too."

The focus this year will be Fed Cup and their bid for an Olympic gold.

"Now we're playing very good doubles we hope to play that good in the Olympics, but we will try to do be successful in singles too," added Alona.

AFP

(China Daily 02/13/2008 page11)