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Old Feb 28th, 2006, 04:25 PM   #84
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Sharapova: Kutzy needs
to stop listening to the chatter
Kuznetsova had very little interest in winning points of any kind. She knew coming into the tournament that she had virtually no chance of winning because she hasn't learned to contend with the pressure of being a recognized elite player.

A few weeks ago, she spoke of having nothing left in the tank mentally, of how confused she was as to why, and how much she dreaded the expectations that come along with being a player who has reached the top of the mountain.

"This year I've wanted to go out and play like the US Open champion," said Kuznetsova. "I put too much pressure on myself and tried to be too good."

Her slide down has been precipitous. She hasn't won a title all year and has been unable to unleash either her tireless legs or murderous forehand. She's indecisive in big situations (like when she held two match points against Justine Henin-Hardenne at the French Open) and careless in small ones (like against Bychkova).

Even though the 20-year-old Kuznetsova said that she did tryin this match, it was quite clear that she wanted to go home and regroup. There was no other reason why she would lose that badly to a player who had never competed in a Slam before. She won't even try to play Fed Cup when her nation faces France in the final in three weeks time. Kuznetsova needs to relax and get a hold of where her career is headed.

"Now no one will disturb me about [being the defending champion]," she said. "No one will say anything to me. I'll just relax and take some time off. I've learned a lesson. … You can put the pressure on yourself. You think too much about what people say. I tried my best. I cannot do anything more. It wasn't my day. What can I do? Kill myself? No, just take positives out of it and try to learn."

There are no positives from that match, only that she'll get to kick back for a few weeks with her family.
There is something she can learn from one of her countrywomen, Maria Sharapova, who also won a Slam title as a teen last year, but still managed to ward off the pressure demons and, just last week, became the first Russian woman to become No. 1.

Sharapova, who took down Eleni Daniilidou 6-1, 6-1 decided that the process was more important than the results and if she kept trying to improve and focus on broadening her game, the results would come.
That's why she's still a contender at the US Open and Kuznetsova will soon be back in some Moscow coffee house lamenting what could have been.

"I was in that period right after I won Wimbledon," said Sharapova. "The next four months I felt like I had to win every match. It's a matter of telling yourself that it's impossible to win everything no matter what people say. You can't control people's actions. … My big thing is to just keep working hard. Because one day, you're going to be on court and you'll win a match and realize that the hard work paid off. That's exactly what I did last year. I lost here and I worked my butt off."
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