October 23, 2021

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Demekhine

Sergei Demekhine in Jan. 2011 – and in Jan. 2020. (Stephanie Myles/OpenCourt.ca)

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And now, for something completely different as the US Open gets down to serious business.

On Louis Armstrong Stadium Tuesday, Veronika Kudermetova and Anna Blinkova met Vera Zvonareva and Laura Siegemund for a spot in the US Open women’s doubles final.

It was a big occasion by any standard – won by the veterans Zvonareva and Siegemund 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

But beyond that, it was a moment when the past and present of Sergei Demekhine came together.

Coach-slash-model – quite the thing in ’10

A decade ago, Demekhine (now 36), created somewhat of a sensation when he began to coach fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva.

They were both 26 then (Demekhine is three months younger). They had known each other since they were 11, and later won a national mixed doubles title together back in Russia.

The thing about Demekhine was that … he also was a model – a Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch type model.

This was not the typical resumé for a coach/hitting partner. And it became quite a thing before Twitter was … Twitter.

(This was before Jermaine Jenkins’s bulging biceps and Sascha Bajin’s well-shorn torso).

As you can see, he was well suited for the job – and a strapping 6-foot-3 1/2 as well.

Not just a pretty face

Demekhine had a pretty good side gig going as a model, back in the day.

The thing was, Zvonareva had her very best results with Demekhine on the bag. She reached back-to-back Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010. And she got to her career-high ranking of No. 2.

ALSO OCCASIONALLY!

The photos above were taken at the Australian Open in 2011, as Zvonareva looked for a third straight semi.

(Open Court, of course, was on the scene. You would expect nothing less).

She didn’t make the final, but she did reach the semis, losing to Kim Clijsters.

But by April of that year, they were no more.

Demekhine said he basically found out about it on television, when Zvonareva was working with Karen Krutov in Miami.

Figuring he’d be demoted back down to hitting partner, that was sort of that.

Moving through the Russian ranks

Demekhine had previously worked with Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pivovarova.

From there he worked with Margarita Gasparyan as a junior, and was the captain of the Russian under-18 team.

As far back as 2012, he was working with a promising 14-year-old named … Kudermetova.

He first appears on her Instagram in 2016.

And guess what – they’re still working together today.

Except there’s a twist – they married in Oct. 2017 when she was 20 and he was 33.

(That she was barely a teenager when they began working together … we probably shouldn’t go there).

Occasional meetings

Tuesday wasn’t the first time Zvonareva and Kudermetova were on court together.

In Nov. 2018, Kudermetova and Galina Voskoboeva beat Zvonareva and Timea Bacsinszky in the final of the WTA 125K in Limoges, France. And they actually teamed up for doubles in Rome last year.

In Jan. 2019, they met for the only time in singles, in the quarterfinals of the WTA tournament in Shenzhen, just before the Australian Open.

Zvonareva won, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Kudermetova had been through the qualifying. She beat Danka Kovinic, Anna Blinkova (her partner this week) in a third-set tiebreak, Irina-Camelia Begu in a third-set tiebreak and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets before running out of gas.