You probably haven’t heard of Anna Morgina, her best singles ranking was WTA 316 in 2017, and doubles WTA 165 in 2016; she has never gotten into a grand slam qualifying and since 2003 she doesn’t live in Russia anymore.
Looking at her profile there is a whole bunch of questions:
- 95 finals in 12 years—why so many and why her ranking is so low?
- 150k in prize money total, where does she get the finances to survive?
- Why Egypt and what does the University of South Carolina have to do with all this?
- Where does she get the motivation to play tennis when her life is in debt because of it?
“I left Russia when I was 13,” Anna says “Because barely any coach cares about you unless they are certain that your parents can pay them a lot. Financial problem has always been a part of my career and I’ve been trying to survive in tennis for as long as I can remember myself. After a while, my father and I came to the conclusion that playing tennis on a high level in Russia is going to be financially impossible, so we left and barely looked back”
When Anna and her dad arrived in Egypt, she started training with top kids in the country free of charge, because she was representing a local club; she was a top player in Egypt under 14, 16, and 18 y.o. age groups were showing a lot of potential and hard work.
“With all that being said” Anna continues “The conclusion is—Russian Tennis Federation never helps their own players in any way unless their families have connections and power. And look at Egypt, which took a kid (not even their own) for free to train and develop. That’s why I had to leave, and thanks to my father and Egypt I still play tennis and enjoy my life on a tennis court”
After Egypt, Anna committed to the University of South Carolina (a great school), and lived in the Czech Republic (strange coach) and Estonia (a dad of a local player was helping her).
When and why did she come to the US?
“I was 17, and my parents didn’t have any money to support me so I had to go” says Anna “I did not know what America would be like, everything was so new and shocking, but I adapted quickly and love it until now. I honestly didn’t want to go, because I’ve always wanted to be a pro, but I didn’t know how to make money myself yet and it was the only way to stay in the sport (plus free education in one of the best countries in the world). My journey there was rough —our head coach was 75 years old, training wasn’t good enough, girls on the team never wanted to practice extra, I just never had enough, so I was doing a lot of extra work out on my own because I knew from my first semester that I will be a pro after 4 years no matter what”
After graduation in 2012, she went back to Egypt to train and started playing “futures” events — the lowest category tournaments of the WTA tour. “I was so lucky that in the exact year of my graduation Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh, a great touristic paradise started hosting futures 48 weeks a year and it was a great opportunity for me to play a lot, plus I was only 400 miles away from home”
Her doubles performance was way better than singles in the beginning—she partnered up with her best friend Yana Sizikova also from Russia, who is currently ranked top 50 WTA. “There it was 2012-2013 in Sharm, where our journey together started, we won so many tournaments together, can’t even count how many. Those were the happiest years of my career, I was doing great mentally with Yana by my side, and we always had each other’s backs” Anna claims, that her great doubles start has pushed her into doing great in singles as well. She won her first singles pro event in July 2012 and throughout her career, she had 13 singles titles as well as 39 doubles titles. Throughout her career she has also played doubles and won titles with her great friends: Daria Mishina (RUS) WTA 270 and Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) WTA 170. Other partners in the past that she won pro titles with were: Katarina Siniakova (CZE) WTA 1, Victoria Kan (RUS) WTA 150, Laura Pigossi (BRA) WTA 102, Vera Lapko (BLR) WTA 60, Nina Stojanovic (SRB) WTA 37, Harriet Dart (GBR) WTA 84, Valeria Solovyeva (RUS) WTA 67, Melanie Klaffner (AUT) WTA 148, Galina Fokina (RUS) WTA 79 and many more.
After Egypt, when she got into the top 400 WTA, she had to start playing higher tournaments in order to improve her ranking. “That’s when I started being challenged financially the most. See, Egypt was super cheap to live, I rented an apartment there for 2 years, paid $300-$400 monthly, cheap food and transportation to the tennis club, and I was happy with my savings because that’s the only way to save when you play futures”
But then, she was offered free training in the Czech Republic by a person she did not know; in return, she had to promote the academy in any way she could and she decided that that was the only opportunity to continue playing because traveling around Europe is easier and cheaper when already there. “This was one of the strangest years of my life” Anna wonders “How can a coach think of himself as a decent one when he tries to change his player’s technique at the age of 26? And that’s not the worst part about him. When I had an opportunity to make money and was offered to play exhibition matches in Sweden he tried to forbid me to do so, and I had to lie my way into them. I sincerely despised him and was looking for ways to get out of there but I had nowhere else to go and train. Can’t really call it a good training either— I was hitting with girls 14-16 y.o. And wasn’t benefiting much, but at least there was some kind of training process. I was hoping and praying that I’d eventually find a sponsor, My love and passion for tennis kept me going.”
While playing in Sweden Anna met a Dutch player Chayenne Ewjik who asked her if she wants to train in Estonia with Saara Orav, a young promising daughter of a local millionaire; her father was looking for a decent hitting partner for her. He also promised that her coach Jure Udovicic would help Anna improve. “And he did” Anna is being fond about it “he is a great coach and helped me a lot mentally and physically, we were very close and it was a great time”
But all the good things come to an end. Saara went to college in the US, and Anna lost her opportunity to train again. She started traveling on her own, staying in horrible Airbnb’s, scary Couchsurfing places, buying flight tickets with 3 layovers because it was cheaper than a straight flight, and basically being in debt all the time. Sometimes she would sleep at the airport so she doesn’t have to pay for the hotel. Food was another story. “My nutrition was horrible,” she says “I had to save money, otherwise I won’t be able to buy a flight ticket back. Eventually, all that kicked back at me, I started having health problems, and being an athlete with that kind of nutrition didn’t help. I had to find a way to survive, but not like this”
In 2019 Anna started making money by playing doubles with young players who needed a push into WTA rankings. “It was a good source of income. My flights and hotels were paid, I was getting bonuses for winning, I was living in comfort and had good food (finally)” Annalaughs “The exhibition matches in Europe also helped a lot and I could keep myself afloat. I finally got what I needed but still couldn’t afford taking my coach with me. His name is Alexey Kaperskiy. We know each other since 2013, and he was the one that kept me going throughout most of my career. He is one of a few coaches in Russia or I’d say all over the world that puts his soul into players and is really looking for the best in his students. That’s why I value him so much. He is not just my coach, but a best friend, mentor, psychologist, motivator, and much more. Thanks to him I am who I am today. But unfortunately, I can’t see Alex as often as I could. In the 10 years that I’ve known him, I managed to travel with him to a tournament literally 4 times only. It’s almost impossible to improve like that, so I believe that I’ve reached my maximum possible ranking due to the circumstances of my life”
“I’ve been having health issues and the same knee injury kept on coming back a few times and I’m not currently competing for 100%, but in the future, my dream of becoming a higher-ranked professional player is still there; I’ve gotten smarter with my decisions and my experience in the field is very beneficial. I’m planning on continuing sharing my valuable knowledge with the young ones while still competing myself on tour”
Currently, Anna resides in New Jersey, USA where she currently trains and recovering from a knee injury.
University of South Carolina Profile: https://gamecocksonline.com/sports/wten/roster/player/anya-morgina