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Old Feb 23rd, 2006, 02:36 PM   #83
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Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia obliges fans with her autograph after her victory against German Martina Muller in the first round of the Dubai Open on Tuesday. Karl Jeffs/Gulf News

I'm improving each day: Kuznetsova

By Alaric Gomes, Staff Reporter


Dubai: Former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova is happy that she has matured as a player.

"I have been discovering so many things about myself," Kuznetsova said after blasting past German Martina Muller 6-2, 6-0 in under one hour in the opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open here on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the Russian overcame Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 to enter the third.

"The most important thing is that I'm improving each day," Kuznetsova said.

No smooth transition

The transition has not been all that smooth as an all-time career-high of No 4 in 2004 was followed by a disappointing 2005 season. This included a straight-sets defeat against India's Sania Mirza in the second round here last year.

"I am happy that the hard work put in is showing off," Kuznetsova said.

"I could not have asked for anything better than this."

If 2004 was the highpoint, the following year was an all-time low. But it was also a learning curve for the Russian who practices in Spain with former ATP player Emilio Sanchez.

After a disappointing latter half of 2005, Kuznetsova proved she had not lost the form that brought her a Grand Slam title and a top-5 ranking.

She has been among the better players this season and the best she has come up till now is the semifinals at the Medibank International last month in Australia. She rode on that form to make it to the last-eight stage of the Australian Open.

"When you are mature, you start thinking about your game and your approach to life. You analyse much more and get to know your worth," she remarked. "But it is not the same when you are just starting off."

Happy hunting ground

Dubai has been a happy hunting ground for the Russian. Last year, she shrugged her second-round loss in the singles to end runners-up along with Alicia Molik in the doubles. Year before, she had reached the singles final where she lost to Amelie Mauresmo.

"I love this place, it motivates me so much. There are so many Russians here that it seems like Russia," she said.


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