Kuznetsova’s Mind Is Telling Her To Keep Playing

Svetlana Kuznetsova (photo: DDF Tennis)

DUBAI/WASHINGTON, March 10, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Many is the time that Svetlana Kuznetsova has trouble accepting that she can’t always deliver the same kind of performance she gives on the practice court during a match. However, as the 35-year-old Russian and winner of two Grand Slam singles titles – and, at times, a mercurial figure on the WTA tour for the past twenty years – expresses, she won’t give up trying. Her mind tells her to keep playing.

“I don’t think age really matters,” the 41st-ranked Kuznetsova said Tuesday evening during an 11-minute virtual press conference with a small group of English-language reporters that included Tennis TourTalk, following her 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 upset of No. 1 seed Elina Svitolina at the WTA’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I’m still here, I’m still alive. I still can play,” said Kuznetsova, whose 21st career win at Dubai, against Svitolina, is most of any competitor in the tournament’s history. As she explained to Tennis TourTalk:

“I don’t feel like I’m not as fit as the other girls. I feel equal. have my experience, and yes, I have to deal with my emotions, nerves, and other mental things, but it’s always been like this. If not one thing, it’s another thing. I have no doubts I can compete against the best.”

Early in her career, the St. Petersburg native, who stands 5-feet-8 1/2-inches and hits right-handed with a two-fisted backhand, rose to World No. 2 in the WTA Rankings in 2007, sandwiched in between winning the 2004 US Open and Roland Garros in 2009. She’s been to the WTA Finals six times, played in numerous Fed Cup competitions for Russia and represented her country in three Olympic Games. Now, as one of the senior-most in age and time on the WTA tour, Kuznetsova isn’t ready to slow down. She’s seventh on the all-time active list with 18 WTA titles won and this week, Kuznetsova is one of the last 16 still competing in Dubai at the year’s first 1000-series event featuring 12 of the Top 20 in women’s pro tennis. On Wednesday, she faces No. 63 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic for a place in the quarterfinal round.

Kuznetsova said she looks forward to getting her game together free of injuries that have slowed her in recent seasons, to enjoy each match and she’s in it to win matches. She accepts the difficulties that come with it – and she admits she’s wiser now than she was 10 years ago.

“It’s not an easy life … but we’re privileged to earn good money by playing,” said Kuznetsova. “You have to be good and sacrifice a lot of things, but if you were to tell me at 25 I would still be here at 35, I would say, ‘Never.’ …

“There were months where I was home, injured, and didn’t want to play. I’d say, ‘Thank God, I’m not at the US Open.’ But time passes, and I ask myself, ‘What do I do best?’ I want to be successful and I’m used to being successful at what I do, and starting something new is a risk.

When Kuznetsova was asked if not tennis then what, she smiled at the reporter’s question and said: I have few options, but I have realized I cannot start a new chapter without stopping this one. My mind is telling me I want to play.”

Queried by Tennis TourTalk, Svitolina praised Kuznetsova by saying: “She’s always been a great fighter. She runs down lots of balls. She fights no matter what the score is. She’s always playing with a good attitude. I remember when she won her Grand Slams. She was fighting and giving all she could to win the match. That, I think, is what makes her such a champion.”

With quality wins like her latest against Svitolina in Dubai this week, don’t expect Kuznetsova to close the book on tennis anytime soon.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga back in the win column

France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his first ATP Tour match since 2019 at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, France, on Tuesday. The 66th-ranked Tsonga defeated Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Memorable first ATP Tour-level win for Rune

Denmark’s Holger Rune defeated Sebastian Baez of Argentina, 6-3, 6-2,  to record his very first ATP Tour-level win at the ATP 250 Chile Dove Men+Care Open in Santiago, Chile, on Tuesday. The 17-year-old has enjoyed a celebrated junior career, reaching World No. 1.

Late night in Guadalajara at the Abierto Zapopan 2021

No. 2 seed Marie Bouzkova burned the midnight oil in Guadalajara, Mexico, Monday night into early Tuesday morning. The No. 50 Bouzkova from the Czech Republic, beat No. 132 Irina Maria Bara of Romania, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, to advance to the second round.

Top seed in this WTA 250 hardcourt event is No. 46 Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, who on Tuesday evening advanced to the second round with a 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-2 win over Giuliana Olmos of Mexico.

Another day in the life of Elina Svitolina

What they’re saying

Belinda Bencic celebrates her 24th birthday on court in Dubai Wednesday where, as the No. 6 seed, she’ll face Anastasia Potapova of Russia for a quarterfinal berth in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the year’s first WTA 1000-series event. A week after the World No. 12 lost in the first round to Madison Keys at the Qatar Total Open in Doha, the Swiss No. 1 has moved into the third round. Following Tuesday’s 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 win over Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, which broke a two-match losing streak, Bencic was asked to compare Doha to Dubai.

“I think the conditions in Dubai suit me more than in Doha,” said Bencic, who has started 2021 with a 6-4 win-loss record including reaching the final two weeks ago in the Adelaide International. She spoke virtually with media after playing her first match in Dubai, where she lifted the trophy a year ago. “It couldn’t be more different in Doha, where the courts are very slow and very high bounce. Here is much faster and also different balls that fly more. It’s very different here with the weather conditions, as well. When you play in the day, it’s super-fast, but at night, it gets slower and you can hit the ball more.

“I already know how I have to practice and approach each match. I feel like it’s going better for me here than in Doha.”

What they’re writing

Tennis.com‘s Steve Tignor and Joel Drucker debate the significance of Novak Djokovic breaking Roger Federer’s record for most weeks ranked No. 1.

L’Equipe: Mats Wilander on Roger Federer

“The return of Roger Federer at almost 40 shows the incredible passion that drives him. I have never met someone who loves tennis as much as he does. Nadal has a passion for competition. Roger, he’s interested in the game of tennis. “

What they’re sharing on social media

Elise Mertens / In support of World Wildlife

Garbiñe Muguruza / In support of literacy and girls’ education program