Kuznetsova the next of Russia's leading lights
Stephen Bierley in New York
Monday September 13, 2004
Svetlana Kuznetsova may be one of the least well known of the five Russian women in the world's top 10, and her $1m (£556,000) prize money for winning the US Open pales into insignificance compared to the multimillion-dollar endorsements of Maria Sharapova, the Wimbledon champion, but it could be that Kuznetsova - St Petersburg's own Special K - will turn out to be the pick of the bunch.
Her 6-3, 7-5 victory over Elena Dementieva, who also lost the first-All Russian grand slam final, against Anastasia Myskina at the French Open this spring, was dynamic and powerful enough to suggest this will not be the 19-yearold's only major title.
Kuznetsova has been based in Barcelona since she was 14, and is coached by a Spaniard, Sergio Casal, whom she was the first to hug. She admitted to wondering What am I doing here?" on Saturday night as she walked into the Arthur Ashe stadium, the world's largest tennis arena with its 23,000 capacity, but she rarely allowed herself to become nervous or rushed once she had survived an opening break of serve to love.
Dementieva, 22, continues to have service problems, which drove her to tears of frustration in the French Open at Roland Garros, and for the first time in the latter stages of the tournament her frailty was severely punished by her fellow Russian whose forehand return is a formidable weapon against considerably better servers. It has said much for Dementieva's resolve, courage, and ability that she reached this final at all so soon after the debacle in Paris. A left thigh injury also restricted her movement, while two hardfought victories over Amélie Mauresmo and Jennifer Capriati had further sapped her energy, but this final was never one-sided.
"I wasn't able to play my best tennis," Dementieva said, referring to the injury. "But Svetlana played a great game and deserved to win. I played some good tennis and I am not that disappointed. She just played better than me."
Kuznetsova had gone out to practise for an hour after each of her previous matches, and Saturday was no exception. She is a former world junior No1, and the success of her compatriots this year prompted her to work even harder at her game.
Last year she played doubles with Martina Navratilova, who was at courtside to see her win. "She came to see me before the final and said: 'I did it when it was my first final and you can do it too'."
There was little in the way of subtlety - the women's game has no equivalent of Roger Federer - but Kuznetsova had obviously gained considerable confidence from her semi-final victory over Davenport, and today climbs to a career-high No6 in the rankings, just behind Dementieva and Myskina. "The competition between us is why we are progressing so fast," said Kuznetsova, who became the third different Russian woman to win a grand slam title this year. And all this 30 years after Dementieva's coach, Olga Morozova, had become the first, and previously only, Russian women's grand slam finalist when she finished runner-up twice at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Now there is no stopping them.</FONT>
__________________and where they produce desolation, they call it peace