“Finding the Israel Tennis Centers was a true blessing that changed my life forever.”
So says 12-time WTA champion and former top 20 ranked player in the world Anna Smashnova who came to Israel with her family from Russia when she was 14 years old. She was introduced to the game back in the former Soviet Union city of Minsk at the age of 6, quickly rising to be #1 in her age group before arriving in Israel. That is when her career and her life really blossomed.
“The Israel Tennis Center in Ramat Hasharon was like a second home to me. If I was not in school or at home, I could be found at the ITC where I felt like I really belonged. It was a wonderful environment to grow and become stronger as a person.”
After turning pro in 1994, Anna was named Tennis Magazine/Rolex Watch Female Rookie of the Year. “When I became a professional I felt so lucky that my training and experiences at the ITC gave me a chance for a real future.” She wasted little time in realizing how successful that future could be. At the 1994 French Open she upset world number 5 Jana Novotna, followed later that same year with an upset victory at the US Open over number 14 Lori McNeil. She proceeded to make it to the fourth round of the French Open in both 1995 and 1998… her best Grand Slam results.
Following her graduation from American International High School outside Tel Aviv in 1995 and the completion of her military service in the Israeli army in 1997, Anna continued to rack up impressive wins around the world. She won her first top-level WTA tour singles title in 1999 at Tashkent and her second title a year later at the prestigious Sanex Tourney in Belgium. Her real breakthrough year came in 2002 when Anna won four titles and beat 11 top 20 players. She won her ninth career title in 2004 in Vienna when she beat the highly touted Alicia Molik in three sets. In October that same year she was victorious over world number 14 Ai Sugiyama in Germany.
In March 2007 Anna publicly announced on Israeli radio that she would be retiring from professional tennis after Wimbledon. In addition to her extraordinary professional record, Anna holds the mark for the most ties played in Fed Cup competition – 61!
Since retirement, Anna has not forgotten her roots in Israel and the Israel Tennis Centers. She returned to coach at the ITC – Ramat Hasharon as her way of giving back to the ITC and the children who aspire to achieve the same level of success she enjoyed. “Coming back to the ITC made me feel like I was truly coming home again. Coaching here has been my way of helping the youngsters who come through the doors of the center just like I was so fortunate to receive when I was their age. The ITC taught me many things, including the fact that tennis, as an individual sport, makes you a stronger person. This has helped me to be who I am today, and I want to make sure that these kinds of values are instilled in the next generation of players.”