Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 24th, 2008, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
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Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

What do you reckon to this article:


By Sandra Harwitt
Special to ESPN.com
Updated: October 24, 2008

She's come close, but Svetlana Kuznetsova has incurred a lot of criticism for her inability to win finals.
It came as no surprise last week when the WTA Tour announced that Svetlana Kuznetsova qualified for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will take on a new look at its new digs in Doha, Qatar, early next month.

In keeping careful tabs on the Race to the Sony Ericsson Championships as one does during the fall season, it was fairly evident that unless something went seriously awry, Kuznetsova would make the grade. Indeed, she became the sixth player behind Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina, Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva and Ana Ivanovic to make the field, with two more players still to qualify. History was in Kuznetsova's corner in this endeavor -- she has been a fixture at the event four of the past five years, only missing out on competing in 2005.

But the question that is impossible not to ask is: What will Kuznetsova do with another opportunity at the year-end Championships?

Outgoing off the court, the 23-year-old tends to struggle when it comes to critical matches deep into tournaments. Able to put herself in position to shine brightly, she struggles to capitalize on those opportunities -- evidenced by losing 10 of her past 11 final matches. Of course, Kuznetsova has had her moments, most notably when she dazzled at the 2004 U.S. Open. And she also reached the US. Open final in 2007 and the French Open final in 2006, but she was unable to push opponent Justine Henin to a third set in either of those matches.

Kuznetsova's problems are not caused by technique, but rather stem from what seems to be a lack of self-assuredness. The U.S. Open victory turned out to be a rare example of how great things can happen when she couples a positive attitude with her aptitude for the game.

"When she won the Open, she almost seemed like mindless; she just attacked, attacked, attacked," said ESPN analyst Mary Carillo. "She didn't think about it -- she would win her matches and then go off and practice. She was in this unbelievable groove and with confidence and rhythm. I don't think she ever questioned herself."

There's no doubt Kuznetsova is a reliable competitor -- she has a knack for reaching the later rounds at tournaments most weeks. And for most players, those results would be more than satisfying. However, when consistently playing from the comfort of top-10 territory, loftier expectations should follow.

Kuznetsova, the 2001 International Tennis Federation Junior World Champion, was earmarked for success early on. While she is still in her early 20s, it seems as if she has been around the game forever, causing many to charge she could be turning into an underachiever.

A glance at her 2008 performance would leave many top players frustrated enough to tear the hair out of their heads, especially in a season that was wide-open for a number of players, including Kuznetsova, to go to the head of the WTA Tour class. On paper, Kuznetsova's 44-18 win-loss record for the year seems solid. But she went 0-5 in finals at Sydney, Dubai, Indian Wells, Tokyo and Beijing, losing all five matches to fellow top 10 opponents -- three of whom were ranked No. 1 at the time of the matches.

There is much speculation on whether Kuznetsova can ratchet up her game to a superstar level. Is she able to clearly define the player she should be? Is she similar to Kim Clijsters, someone who enjoyed competition but often was too nice to possess the necessary killer instinct? And big picture, is she suffering from an identity crisis?

Kuznetsova, who has won nine career titles, has a well-rounded game with the ability to be a take-charge player on the court, a talent she frequently shies away from using. In Carillo's estimation, she's capable of "breaking open a point with a big shot." But Carillo also notes Kuznetsova comes across as someone with a "sense of confusion" in terms of what style of tennis she should be playing.

The outgoing Russian was born into a family packed with athletic genes. Except for Svetlana, the family passion is cycling, which she initially tried before selecting tennis as her mission. Her father, Alexandr Kuznetsov, coached six Olympic champions; her mother, Galina Tsareva, was a six-time world champion with 20 world records; and her brother, Nikolai Kuznetsov, was a silver medalist at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Kuznetsova inherited the family's competitive nature but pays a price for not always being a win-at-all-costs personality.

[+] EnlargeTimothy Clary/Getty Images

Svetlana Kuznetsova was earmarked for superstardom after winning the 2004 U.S. Open title.
As the season looks to come to a close, Kuznetsova appears to be at a crossroads, which has led her to some major life changes. After spending most of her time since age 14 based in Spain at the Sanchez-Casal Academy, where she has worked with Stefan Ortega as well as having the ear of academy owner, Emilio Sanchez, and his sister, four-time Grand Slam champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, she's returning to her Russian roots.

She's moving back to the motherland -- planning to spend time with her family in St. Petersburg, the city where she was born. Kuznetsova will be primarily headquartered in Moscow, working with new coach, Olga Morozova, a finalist to Chris Evert at the 1974 French Open and Wimbledon.

In a statement released last week, Kuznetsova said, "I would especially like to thank Emilio Sanchez for his belief in me and making me into the player I am today and also my longtime coach, Stefan Ortega. I feel that I have got to a stage in my life now that I would like for personal reasons to return to my family in my homeland and continue developing my tennis career."

A cheery sort who often can be seen bopping along to the music from her iPod, Kuznetsova is understandably not a first-string player in the WTA Tour's publicity and tends to get lost in the shuffle among key players -- Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Serena and Venus Williams.

Morozova could be an ideal change of pace for Kuznetsova. Hearing a new voice after so many years could shake things up. And the coaching switch might also bring the nurturing support of a mother or big-sister figure, which could shore up Kuznetsova's self-reliance.

"Olga will hopefully help her to impose her game a little bit more," Carillo said. "Maybe one of the reasons she's moving back to Russia is to find out answers to the question, 'Who am I and what am I trying to be?' She has a lot of game, but she doesn't seem to have a lot of confidence."

Though many would characterize Kuznetsova as having a well-heeled career, others would rightly insist she hasn't fulfilled her potential. Maybe heading home to rekindle her Russian persona and work with a new Russian coach will bring out the best in Kuznetsova.

Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 24th, 2008, 06:12 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

Hahahahahah, they said Jankovic was a key player concerning publicity!!
The other four yes, but Jankovic?!!!

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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 24th, 2008, 06:19 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

Only 1 title in over 2 years, and that was Agnes retiring, and the quality of play in set 1 was awful.
Definately needs some help with the mental side of the sport.

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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 24th, 2008, 06:46 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

I hope moving back to Russia and a new coach will help her out--she really has a lot more potential, IMO. Go Sveta!

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 24th, 2008, 07:05 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

it has been a disappointing year so hopefully this change will be for the better and she will play up to her skills next year.
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 24th, 2008, 07:18 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

Good luck with that Sveta..

Thx for the Article.

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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 24th, 2008, 11:44 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

Great article. Hopefully moving back to russia and working with morozova will bring a bit of stability to kuznetsovas messed up head! . As a fan, its so frustrating to watch her play. She really can do everything on court, but sometimes thats her problem - she has so many options which to pick. I think she also needs work on her attitude. Sometimes she looks like she doesn't want to be out there


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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2008, 09:32 AM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

Great article.

It's been such a disappointing year for her. I would have picked Sveta to pick up another major this year with the slams and Olympics going to five different players but she has ended up having the most disappointing year of all the Doha qualifiers, being totally upstaged by Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva who have taken advantage of the instability to move well ahead of the more fancied Sveta.

I am pleased that she is trying something new because as the article says, the problems are largely mental. Sveta can win on all surfaces and beat everyone but she seems unable to do it in the big matches and her results in finals over the last two years are an absolute shocker. The fact is that with a bit of belief, she could definitely get the no 1 ranking. To my mind she has shown enough to prove she can win Roland Garros and I think her Wimbledon results have never fulfilled the potential shown by her 2003 quarter-final when unseeded and 2004 Eastbourne title, she should make a semi or a final at the very least in the next two years to make up for it.

One thing the article did not mention which I think partly lies behind the depression of Sveta's career is the fact that because she did not possess the glamour of some of her Russian contemporaries like Myskina and especially Sharapova, Sveta's 2004 US Open win was largely greeted with indifference by the world's media, and to add insult to injury, that media seemed far more interested in Sveta when she was accused over that non-event, the Belgian exhibition 'drugs' scandal. Sorry to pun, but that must have been a terribly bitter pill to swallow and was responsible for her subsequent plunge in the rankings in 2005. Sveta has recovered sufficiently to be firmly established in the top 8, but it is almost like she does not want to win another slam and meet that wall of indifference again. It's similar to the way Conchita Martinez was treated when she won Wimbledon.

The good thing is that both Sveta and her WTA mentors have been trying to remedy the lack of media interest in Sveta by portraying her as probably the most cool and fun player in the top 10, if not the most beautiful. Good for Sveta - I just hope that the general public will get more of a feel for her in time, because she really is a super player when she has the inspiration.

Last edited by StephenUK; Oct 25th, 2008 at 09:35 AM. Reason: Grammar error corrected
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2008, 10:04 AM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

Ahhhh Sveta must be frustrated. She's one of the most all-round, if not THE most talented player right now but she just can't seem to channel her fears down!! *sigh* I really hope she wins another slam.

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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2008, 10:29 AM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

StephenUK, some notes.

Her 2005 was a failure for many reasons, in my opinion, and that was one of the least important ones. Overplaying and pressure were the keys, and once she lightened her schedule and got over her initial sophomore slump, she had a fantastic 2006 season where she entered the top five after the US Open, and didn't leave there until the week after the US Open this year. So what is this about firmly being reestablished in the top eight? She was top three for most of 2007 after finishing 2006 top five! She even made #2 and was there for quite some time. She's proved herself to be a great top three/five player, so top eight is diminishing what she achieved in 2006/2007 greatly.

She's maybe perhaps had the most disappointing 2008 season of the eight qualifiers, but five higher tier finals or Zvonareva's two lower tier titles, what's really better? That's the only reason she's having a "bad" season. If she'd beaten Dementieva and Henin in those first two finals she played she'd be having a very good year to most people, even with a few weird performances at slams.

People overexaggerate how bad her year has been. She struggled after Miami, she really did, but she made a slam semifinal still and a Wimbledon 4R is fine. Then her results started picking up again.

If she were to win Doha she might re-enter the top five. Top five, potentially, and a bad/disappointing/poor season...guess it's all about expectations and relativity between players.
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

Originally Posted by LudwigDvorak View Post
She's maybe perhaps had the most disappointing 2008 season of the eight qualifiers, but five higher tier finals or Zvonareva's two lower tier titles, what's really better? That's the only reason she's having a "bad" season.
Zvonareva was also runner-up at Doha, Charleston and Moscow. The only thing that separates them is a grand slam semifinal -- and let's be honest Sveta reached it only thanks to cakewalk draw.

Sveta's post-Miami results -- QF and better at 5/12 events, 1-4 vs top-10, 3-7 vs top-20 -- would be appropriate for top-20 player but not for YEC participant.
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2008, 05:28 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

I must say I'm losing faith in her...it's great that she's usually quite consistent but she needs to be winning titles and she hasn't done that in so, so long. It's hard to see her snapping out of it. I'm sure she must at some stage but that could still be a while off.

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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2008, 05:39 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

I think this article is cruel. Many players with lots of potential frazzle out and never win a slam or compete at the top consistantly for even one season. I think Sveta has a lot of reasons to be very proud, though I hope she finds the drive to win some more majors, particularly the French where I have always felt she could do better! ()

I think her attitudes amazing but she needs the competitive mind-frame too. A great player should be able to be nice and bubbly (to some extent at least) off the court but change into their match face on court.

For example she has often commented on how she is happy to fly under the radar and that she inst bothered by the fact that she isnt very well known, and this needs to change for her to threaten the top players in the latter stages.

Anyhow, best of luck Sveta

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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2008, 06:05 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

Kuznetsova you can do it!I like her very much..Let"s go K.
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2008, 07:42 PM
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Re: Unfulfilled potential has Kuznetsova looking for answers

I really want her to win the YEC so badly!

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