Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Sveta's clay dream.
For Kuznetsova, the problem isn’t producing the tennis needed to beat the WTA’s top-ranked players. It’s more to do with some other things that are part and parcel of being a professional tennis player: ‘I have been working hard and I still love my game and still feel like I have a lot to give to tennis. But I am struggling a bit more with the travel and being away from home because I have been doing it all for a long time and I am getting older in tennis years now at 25. Take Indian Wells and Miami. I didn’t do that well this year, but I think that was because it was the ninth year I was playing in those places and I just could not get excited and felt bored. I need to find something different to inspire me in future, that’s for sure.’
If anything can retain Kuznetsova’s interest, it is a return to Europe and the red clay that has brought her so much past success. Victory at the 2009 French Open was the Russian’s second Grand Slam singles title – the highlight of a stellar clay court tear that year which also included a WTA Premier title in Stuttgart and a final in Rome. By comparison, Kuznetsova disappointed on the surface last season but she remains one of the few WTA players who appear to have a natural game for the dirt: ‘Sam Stosur and Schiavone are very good but I don’t think there are too many others who play a true clay court game. They’re more playing hard court tennis on a clay court. For example, Victoria (Azarenka) or Caroline (Wozniacki), they do ok but don’t really change their shots much for clay, say play shots higher over the net with more spin.
I don’t think some players struggle because they’re thinking the wrong tactics. It is more that their game is just not suited to clay. For example, if you look at Maria (Sharapova) she has tried to think a lot about how to play on clay. But her problem is her shots are hard and flat, as my game is more natural for clay because I play with more spin. But I still need to keep working hard to improve.’
Fed Cup also remains a huge motivation for the patriotic Kuznetsova. She has helped Russia win the coveted trophy three times before but with a semi-final against Italy in Moscow coming up, Kuznetsova is hungry for more: ‘We want revenge because last time we played them they kicked our butts in Italy! But now this time they will be without Flavia (Pennetta) and Francesca Schiavone. It still won’t be easy but we are at home and have a strong team.’
No one doubts Kuznetsova’s commitment to her country but the main area of uncertainty for many is if she can still be consistent enough to deliver at the highest level. Cue her typically honest response: ‘People know I am unpredictable, this is clear, it depends on the day! If I have a good day, then I can beat anyone, but my problem is being consistent. I dream of being as consistent as Caroline Wozniacki for the whole season, not just clay courts or whatever. If I had that I could achieve everything! If God could just give me two or three years of consistency like that for the whole season, then I could quit tennis very happy.’
She might not get her wish – but the reality is Kuznetsova remains one of the WTA’s biggest stars and a dangerous opponent for anyone in the clay court swing.
From On The Baseline