Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sister Act Plays Sawgrass Event; Bondarenko Siblings Play a Three-Set Match in the Second Round

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sister Act Plays Sawgrass Event; Bondarenko Siblings Play a Three-Set Match in the Second Round

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANCINE KING

During last week's Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Venus and Serena Williams met for the 20th time in WTA Tour singles play.

Ukrainian sisters Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko were watching - and sympathizing.

"We understand how to play each other is not easy," said Alona, who defeated her younger sister 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday in the second round of the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach. "When we played the first time together it was sad, because it's like 'Oh my gosh, there are 32 people in the draw and we [have] to play together.' "

Wednesday's meeting at Sawgrass Country Club was the sixth in WTA Tour singles play for Alona, 24, and Kateryna, 22. Their older sister, 26-year-old Valeria, is also a tennis pro.

Alona and Kateryna said their first meeting, at an ITF tournament in Italy in 2004, was a nerve-racking affair for their mother, Natalia, who is also their coach.

"She didn't watch our match," said Alona, who is ranked 37th in the world and is the No. 7 seed at Sawgrass. "She just was walking around the court."

Because Natalia teaches at a tennis school in Ukraine, she doesn't travel with her daughters. So Alona designated her boyfriend, Mykda Dyachok, the sisters' hitting partner, as her coach for MPS Group.

Despite being down 4-1 in the first set on Wednesday, Alona hesitated to request to talk to her coach, which the WTA Tour allows players to do once a set.

"I wanted to call [my coach] in the first set, but I thought, 'Now come on, if I call [a] coach, Katya cannot do it,' " Alona said.

That's because Kateryna had designated Alona as her coach for the tournament.

Alona eventually dropped the first set 6-4, before bouncing back to force a deciding third set.

Alona said the sisters do just about everything together, traveling on Tour, taking vacations and going out for fun - as long as Kateryna, who's three inches taller at 5-foot-9, agrees to where flat shoes.

"When I wear heels, Alona was saying she's not going out with me, because I'm really tall," Kateryna said, laughing.

Their ability to anticipate each other also help make them a successful doubles team. …

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