Who Is Varvara Lepchenko? [Video]
by Tom Gainey | June 2nd, 2012, 6:19 pm

One of the Cinderalla stories of the 2012 French Open is Varvara Lephecnko. The 26-year-old grew up in Uzbekistan and since immigrated to the US last fall. Now the Lepchenko finds herself having the best tournament of her brief pro career, and she’s on the brink of making the US Olympic women’s tennis team with her No. 63 ranking only going upward.

Lepchenko ousted her second seed of the tournament beating former champion Francesca Schiavone today, that after upsetting former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in the second round. Lepchenko now plays another lefty, Petra Kvitova, on Monday in her fourth round Grand Slam debut.

Piecing together her quotes from the week, here’s what we know about Lepchenko.

On her background:

VARVARA LEPCHENKO: I was born and raised in Uzbekistan, Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. When I was 15 years old I went to play juniors in United States and also Sunshine Cup, if you ever heard of that tournament.

So after we arrive ­­ it was me, my dad, and my sister came a week later. After we arrived to the United States, we didn’t come back, because there was no future for me, no future for my career, no ­­ I wouldn’t be able to make it as far as I am right now if I was back in Uzbekistan.

On making the Olympic team:

VARVARA LEPCHENKO: Well, of course it’s important. But I keep saying to myself it’s not important because, you know, I have to get away from those thoughts somehow because it’s going to obviously be in my way when I’m playing.
I don’t want to be standing on the tennis court and thinking, Oh, my gosh, if I win this match I’ll be qualified to play the Olympics.

You know, it’s everybody’s dream. I just try to put it away, put it aside for now, focus on the tennis, focus on my matches.
If God let’s me win and play at the Olympics, it will be amazing, of course.

On her help from the USTA:

VARVARA LEPCHENKO: Last year they, you know ­­ I had like a group of coaches coming and watching me. We were working really hard. I was almost dying, like right now (smiling).

They just told me, You got to believe in you. You have great strokes, great potential. If you worked as hard as you work right now, you will get ­­ you will reach top 50, you know.

After I played Australian Open I lost three tight sets to Hantuchova, and I went back and I was very hungry for more because I knew that I didn’t finish that match.

We had a conversation with Patrick. He said, We need more women in the second week of Grand Slams.

I said, You know what? I’m going to work even harder. Hopefully you’ll see me in the second week.

They, you know ­­ just the whole team has been believing in me so much and giving me inspirational quotes all the time, saying I can do it. And being there, always, you know, they fighting for me and they given me coaches, they given me everything that I need.

I’m just really lucky that it turned out to be New York and turned out to be that team. And I don’t know if I could have done that without them.

On moving from Tashkent to Allentown, PA:

VARVARA LEPCHENKO: My mom, she couldn’t arrive right away, because there is rules, certain rules at the immigration, so I haven’t seen her for four years, once I moved to the United States.

And then once we got approved with our case, she was able to join again by the immigration laws.

Then after that, how I ended up there, there was a challenger, a 25K, USTA challenger. I played that one, and there was a lady who was in charge of housing. She was super nice. Her name is Shari Butz.

Me and my dad, we didn’t have enough money to rent an apartment, so we were struggling, going from one place to another. She said, Listen, I know you guys are all the time on the road. If you ever need a place to stay, you can come and stay with me, because she had a huge house and had, like, a lot of room in it. So she said ­­ she became like my mom. She was with me at the time when my mom wasn’t there.

And then she organized pretty much everything for me. She set up a club for me to practice in. It was at no charge.

When my mom arrived after four years, we rented an apartment. I started to do better and started to make more money, and I was able to rent an apartment.

And now my whole family, my sister lives in Washington, D.C., and my mom stays back in Allentown. My dad also is there (dad is Peter Lepchenko and mom is Larisa Lepchenko). While I’m practicing in New York, on weekends I go back to Allentown to relax, because it’s more relaxing sort of place, but I also like to go out in New York, also.

On the meaning of her name:

VARVARA LEPCHENKO: Well, first one I forgot. Oh, Varvara. I don’t know if it means anything, but I know my dad, his grandma, she loved him so much that he ­­you know, he named me that, Varvara. Her name was Varvara, as well. I think it’s a Greek name. It’s very rare. It’s not very common in Uzbekistan or in Russia. You won’t see many Varvaras.

On what her parents did back in Uzbekistan:

Then the second one, my mom was an accountant back ­­ they both graduated from the universities. My mom is in math and my dad was an engineer.

So my mom was an accountant, and my dad was coaching me. He played not professionally. He, you know, he was coaching me. He continued coaching me back there and in U.S. Then he still coaches me on the road, but, you know, I have a big team.

On her support team:

VARVARA LEPCHENKO: It’s a huge team. I mean, obviously my dad, Patrick McEnroe, Jorgé Todero. Jay Gooding, Jay Devashetty, Bret Waltz. I mean, those are the USTA. Then my dad. By the rules they can’t coach me on the road because I have my dad. But my dad is ­­ he’s a coach, but he’s also a big support of me. So I have someone very close that I can talk to and everything.

My mom stays back in Allentown, and she doesn’t travel that much, but she’s also part of my team.

Here’s a video from today:

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16 Comments for Who Is Varvara Lepchenko? [Video]

Wog boy Says:

Varvara is not uncommon name in eastern ortodox tradition but growing up in Uzbekistan as ethnic Ortodox Russian (5% christians, 95% muslims) wasn’t and wouldn’t be easy for young Varvara to find out more about origin of her name.

St Varvara or St Barbara, same person, who died at the age of seventeen in Phenicia, where she was born, refusing to denounce christianity. Her father killed her. It is nice storry to read whether you are believer or not.
I am happy for young Varvara, it is nice life storry, too.
Good luck Varvara.

conty Says:

That is very interesting to me, Wog boy. I’ve never heard of St. Varvara, maybe my BF knows something as a Greek Orthodox; but he’s socially Greek Orthodox; goes to church on Greek Easter and other holidays for his mom and dad, ect. He’s kinda agnostic like me; but less so than me and less interested in questioning. I like studying and talking religions and myths, gods and saints, with others lacking faith like me, and don’t think any one religion has it right. I think it’s more interconnected than we can imagine. But I don’t rule out something and there being truths in legends and religions – maybe ancient aliens ;) I love that H2 TV series. It’s fascinating what theories people come up with.:D

I’m going to ask him, Greek Orthodox saints get quite confusing to me. Ancient Greek makes more sense, in a way. Anyway, going to look up the story of St. Varvara. (Santa Barbara?)

Congrats to Varvara Lepchenko!

Wog boy Says:


“interconnected”, you couldn’t pick the better word, particulary if we know that all major religions originated basically in the same part of the world.

Yes, Saint/Santa Barbara is Saint/Sveta Varvara, that is how it is spelled and pronounced in the west. It is same person and I guees you know that old Phenicia is todays Lebanon !
We are talking abot third century AD.
As I said, it is nice storry, legend or not. I was raised in ateist family, but I was always courios and inerested in religion. I was lucky enough that I had grandparents where I could expirience religious part of my family, so I had a bit of both. I was blessed that I moved to Australia where I get to know through my work more about Buddhism and Hinduism( little bit less). I loved the way Buddhist people go about their faith, though certain christian denominations don’t consider them religion since they don’t believe in God, Buddha wasn’t God.
I do consider myself religious, eastern-orthodox faith.
BTW, one of my friends, priest by trade:) , told me that if one really wants to read the bible he/she should learn Greek language and reed it in Greek. I don’s speak Greek:)

conty Says:

thanks for your reply, WB. What you have to say I’m very curious about. Too bad this tennis site doesn’t have a sub-forum, like a general topic ‘cafe’, a thread to talk religion, politics, books, movies, music…

I’ve studied various forms of Buddhism and yes, Hinduism is even more complex. But also have visited an ananda ashram to learn meditation, that type and a there was a Buddhist temple I’d go to, to try that. lol, I just about have tried everything. :D and it all somehow to me is “interconnected”, even Native American spriritual beliefs can be sort of tied in with parts of Vedic stories and legends.

Wog boy Says:

Few spelling mistakes, as usual :(

conty Says:

About Greek, I agree. But ancient Greek is different than modern Greek, yes,no? I have been to Greece with my BF and he speaks very well, though he doesn’t do it often here. He can really speak it! And to me, though I can’t begin to read it, or Russian, both have something that rings in my soul. And there are differences aren’t there in the northern Slavik and southern Slavik languages?

conty Says:

Slovak not Slavik…oh dear.

Wog boy Says:


No problem, just no politics, please. Anything else but no politics:)
In Serbia we have saying, “Two Serbs, three political parties”:)

conty Says:

WB, never mind the spelling or anything like that when posting to me. I can’t even write my own language properly unless I take care doing so. But languages come easy to me, which can be confusing because I mix up Italian with Spanish and French still alludes me, though I’ve taken lessons in it. German is tougher for me than Italian. I always choose an Italian stream for cycling or tennis, if I have a choice.

conty Says:

haha… I know what you are saying about the politics…but it is interesting to read the very international/world perspectives from posters on that Cycling sub-forum for politics. I rarely post, just find it fascinating and informing.

Wog boy Says:


It is “Slavic” languages, close enough, they are different but no so different that we cannot understand each other if we speak slowly. As I said while ago on this forum, it was same language once upon a time, once slavic tribes started to move west and south-west from various reasons, Mongols etc, language was changing through the centurie but not so much tha we cannot understan each other.
I love Greece, music, food, hospitality, Islands and of course Greek Zorba. I don’t know if you heard or hda chance to watch movie “Mediterraneo”, it is Italian movie about Greek island that was occupied by Italians during WW2, and Italian unit tha was left on the island, war finished but nobody told them is finished, fun to watch with “meze” and bottle of nice wine.

conty Says:

Me too, feel in love in Greece. Sailed out of port of Pireaus and intended to get to Santorini but made to Spitza and Hydra….loved those island, it was very windy to the east so we had to revise out trip a little but got to see more around Athens. Really loved it. But the city was clean, it was 2004 and the Olympics were over. We were there in September. The food, music, drinks, culture, people. I have not watched “Mediterraneo” but i’ll have to find it, sounds good – in Italian with subtitles, perfect :)

Later Wog boy, I’m falling asleep. This is my weekend to be up early and drive out to see a patient 40 miles away and be there by 7 am!


Wog boy Says:


Sleep tight.

Adam Says:

I know her personally. Genuinely nice girl.

Wog boy Says:


She looks and sounds like one.

Colin Says:

A phrase that always grates on me is “she immigrated to the USA”. She EMIGRATED.
I know the USA is paradise, and the centre of the entire world and all that stuff, but to the migrant at the time, the big thing is they are leaving their home, and it is probably an emotional wrench (even if they were unhappy there), so the event is a leaving, not an arrival.

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