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Olympic gold gives Dementieva confidence

January 16, 2009 12:46 IST

The Russian revolution that has swept women's tennis has not gone according to plan for Elena Dementieva.

Dementieva was once touted as the woman most likely to lead the charge after she made the French and US Open finals in 2004, but her achievements have largely been undermined by her own compatriots.

She was upstaged in the Roland Garros final by Anastasia Myskina and at the US Open by Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Dementieva has also watched Maria Sharapova win Wimbledon (2004), the US Open (2006), the Australian Open (2008) and reach the number one ranking.

Nearly five years after she made the final in Paris, Dementieva is still searching for her maiden Grand Slam title but believes this year's Australian Open represents her best shot.

"It's going to be tough competition but it's great to have a chance," she said.

"The competition right now is very open, the number one position is quite open for a few players but I believe in myself."

Dementieva has not always had that self-belief despite being among the top players on the WTA Tour for years.

In the early part of her career, she struggled with her serve and nerves, often throwing away chances of victory.

She said her experiences has made her a better player.

"You have to be really strong physically, you have to be really strong mentally," she said.

"So I've just been working on everything, trying to improve my game every time I play.

"I think I am pretty tough mentally but I have had to work more on my technical aspect of my game, improving my serve, improving my volley game."

Dementieva's new found self-belief paid off last year when she won the singles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, an achievement she rates as high as any of the Grand Slams.

"That was the best moment in my career, in my life," she said.

"A Grand Slam is a big goal for every single player but the Olympic Games is very special and very personal for me and I just cannot compare them.

HEAT TRAINING

"I played in the Olympic final in Sydney and it was a goal of mine to represent my country in Beijing.

"It was difficult just to get to the Olympics because of the competition to get into the Russian team but I was really focussed.

"I decided not to play doubles and to focus on my singles and make sure I was there."

Dementieva, 27, said her long-term planning and ultimate success in Beijing has given her the belief she could achieve anything.

She abandoned her normal off-season routine of training indoors in Russia to prepare in the heat of Miami then played back-to-back warm-up tournaments in Auckland and Sydney rather than enter an exhibition event in Hong Kong.

"This is the best preparation I have ever had," she said.

"I've never done this before but I'm getting used to the weather conditions much better now and I feel really good.

"I feel that this year is a very unique situation.

"I remember the times when Justine [Henin] was winning and the Williams sisters and Martina Hingis [were dominating] but right now it's really open.

"I think we'll really see a lot of changes in the number one position this year and everyone has a chance to be number one.

"It's going to be tough, I know that, but I feel like I'm ready."

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