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Discussion Starter #21
Sveta's going to Bali again at age 19-



John Inverdale said:
Russia’s Kuznetsova outlasts Martinez to win Bali WTA title

BALI (Indonesia): Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova won her second title in two months when she outlasted eighth-seeded Conchita Martinez 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 in the final of the Wismilak International on Sunday.

The win will catapult the 17-year-old, ranked 264 at the beginning of the year and needing a wild card to enter the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open, into the world's top 50 next week for the first time.

Martinez, who was playing in her first final since the 2000 French Open, claimed the opening set of the two-hour, 43-minute marathon by breaking to lead 5-3 and then holding off a break point in the next game. A disappointed Kuznetsova then dropped her serve to fall behind 1-0 in the second set, but she levelled at 2-2 when Martinez netted a weak backhand and then went on to win the tie-break.

In a dramatic final set, Kuznetsova chose to serve and volley much more than she had in the opening two sets. She broke for 1-0, but Martinez levelled at 2-2. The Russian, who won the Helsinki event in August as a qualifier, then broke to take a 4-3 lead, but failed to serve out the match at 5-4. Kuznetsova held four match points before Martinez eventually levelled with her third break point, but Martinez then dropped her serve again after leading 40-0. Kuznetsova didn't waste her second opportunity.

Kuznetsova is coached by Emilio Sanchez and also works with his sister, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

They are close friends, and at the awards ceremony Kuznetsova dedicated her title to her semi-final opponent Sanchez-Vicario, saying it was she who deserved to win because she had taught her so much. "The match was very, very tough for me mentally," said the 2001 ITF World Junior Champion. "It was a different situation to Helsinki when I won my first WTA title. I wasn't nervous there at all. But here it was very difficult because having to beat Arantxa yesterday was the most difficult day of my life, and so I felt obligated to win today. "That's why I couldn't play my good game at all. When you're so nervous you cannot do anything. I just tried to hit my good forehand and tried to make her move because she doesn't do that well. So I'm not happy with the way I played but I'm happy that I won."

Despite the disappointment of her defeat, Martinez could take some consolation from having come so close to winning her first title since the German Open in May 2000. "Something changed when I was up a set and 2-0. I didn't play as aggressive as I should have," said Martinez. "I had so many chances too in the tiebreak, but the match was tight and it went her way. "Right now, when you lose a match like that of course it's disappointing, but it's good to be in the final and to fight for a title. I felt like I played pretty good the whole week and it was a close final." —AFP
 

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There are tonnes of these, so I'll post a few to keep in the archives

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Kuznetsova continues Russia's rule
By Pete Alfano
New York
September 13, 2004


Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova gives a winner's grin after her victory in the US Open women's final.
Picture:Getty Images



The stadium announcer mangled their names. Playing the Beatles' Back in the USSR while they warmed up was out-of-date and inappropriate. And the match did not quite live up to the magnitude of the moment.

But for Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva, the women's final of the US Open was the crowning achievement in a year when the young women of Russian tennis have taken over the game and won three of the four grand slam titles.

Kuznetsova spoiled another major final for her countrywoman, defeating Dementieva, 6-3, 7-5 to win her first grand slam and give Russian women victories in the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

"Russian tennis is just too powerful," Kuznetsova said, while Dementieva was similarly impressed. "I feel very proud for Russian girls and tennis," Dementieva said. "Today was another great moment. It's a miracle to me that Russian girls won three grand slams and I would be in two finals."

These are the first three slam events won by Russian women. Anastasia Myskina won the French, defeating Dementieva. Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon. Kuznetsova is ranked in the top 15, but wasn't getting much notice when the US Open began.

She has everyone's attention now. She plays aggressively, gambling that the risk-reward ratio will be in her favour. Her serve is for winning points, not just putting the ball in play. And she scurries around the court to compensate for a lack of reach.

Kuznetsova said she was nervous at the start, playing in front of 20,000 fans. It showed, as she was broken at love in the first game. "I thought, 'What am I doing here?' " she said.

But she was able to tune out the crowd.

"There were so many people; I didn't want to think about it," she said. "So when I won, I couldn't show what I felt. I was so shocked and excited, but it didn't come out. My friends and coaches told me I could make this result. Something inside of me was telling me I'd be fine, just do your thing."

Despite making two grand slam finals, Dementieva knows her game is flawed. It starts with her serve. She was broken five times and had four double faults, although she served somewhat better than she did on Friday against Jennifer Capriati in the semi-finals.

"If I want to win a grand slam, I need to have a better serve," Dementieva said. "I have never liked to serve or to practise my serve. I've got to learn to love it."

On the third anniversary of the Twin Towers tragedy, both players earned the admiration and applause of fans in the trophy presentation after the match when they talked about 9-11 and the terrorist attack in Russia on September 1 that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of schoolchildren.

"On behalf of us to you guys," Dementieva told the fans, "we have to stay together and battle terrorism."

It brought thunderous applause she didn't hear during the match. After breaking Kuznetsova in the opening game of the match, she was broken right back. She was broken again in the sixth game when Kuznetsova pounded a forehand winner and then a return winner. Dementieva was broken in the third game of the second set, but broke back in the sixth as fans cheered in hopes of inspiring her.

But if her first serve is weak, her second allows opponents to virtually pick a spot for a winner. Kuznetsova broke at 5-5 when Dementieva was forced to her second serve three times and double-faulted once.

"I knew her game," Kuznetsova said. "We played twice this year and even though I lost once, I had so many chances to win. I know if I play my game, my serve is much better."
 

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Kuznetsova a surprise Open champ
BY JAMES BECK
Of The Post and Courier Staff




Young Svetlana Kuznetsova is the one in the half-dozen top Russian women few people expected to win the U.S. Open.

Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva, Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, in that order, all appeared to be stronger contenders to give Russia its third Grand Slam women's title of 2004. But after Kuznetsova's 6-3, 7-5 conquest of the talented Dementieva in Saturday night's U.S. Open final, the entire tennis world will take note of the big forehand of this 19-year-old.

Kuznetsova practically blew Dementieva off the court with what may be the strongest forehands in women's tennis. Kuznetsova showed great improvement in her movement over earlier this year when she appeared to be heavier on her feet.

This time, Kuznetsova appeared to have excellent mobility. Hampered by an upper left leg injury, Dementieva seldom was able to hit winners herself or get Kuznetsova off balance to the extent that she would mis-hit her forehand. With three different Grand Slam champions and three more women capable of such success, 2004 was a banner year for the Russians.
 

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Out of nowhere, Kuznetsova a champion

NEW YORK (AP) -- A few days before she became the U.S. Open champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova walked into a drizzly night to play her quarterfinal match.
Shifted onto outer court No. 11, it was Kuznetsova, opponent Nadia Petrova -- and 23 fans at the start.



No stats were kept. No major TV coverage. No big deal, by the looks of it.

"I don't have much publicity," she said later that day. "People do not know me as much."

Even as she strolled through the National Tennis Center on Saturday night after her warmup and headed over to Arthur Ashe Stadium to play for the title, not a single person stopped her for an autograph or picture. A few minutes later, when Elena Dementieva emerged, the tall blonde was enveloped by fans.

That was then. Now, Kuznetsova needn't worry -- the 19-year-old with braces assured that by defeating Dementieva 6-3, 7-5 in the all-Russian final.

"I want success. I want to do something," she said. "I really want people to remember my name."

While the tennis world is learning her name, that doesn't mean people can pronounce it. During the on-court trophy presentation, U.S. Tennis Association president Alan Schwartz botched it before apologizing and correcting himself.

Kuznetsova missed a chance to win another title Sunday when she and Elena Likhovtseva lost in doubles to Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez 6-4, 7-5.

Still, at No. 9, Kuznetsova became the tournament's lowest-seeded female singles champion in the Open era, which began in 1968.

A showing so impressive that it was worth calling her parents back in Russia.

"My mom, she didn't watch the match. She said, 'What was the score?"' Kuznetsova said. Told it, her mother responded, "Wow, two sets. That's good."

After finishing that call, doing interviews and accepting congratulations, Kuznetsova did as she always does. She returned to the practice court and, as midnight approached, hit more balls before leaving the grounds.

"After the match, you have to clean up your game," she said Sunday. "It doesn't matter if you win the title."

Back at the hotel, she talked to friends on the Internet, packed her bag for an upcoming trip to Bali and got something to eat. She also turned on the television, hoping to see highlights from the greatest victory of her career.

"I was switching channels, but I couldn't find anything," she said.

Clips of her win were shown on the scoreboard between sets of her doubles match, and Kuznetsova got a cheer from the fans filling into watch Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt play for the men's title.

At one point, Kuznetsova hit an overhead that nipped Suarez's heel and put up both hands to apologize. The match ended when Suarez crunched Kuznetsova's return for the winning point.

"If I really concentrate in doubles, I can do very well," she said. "But it's not my point for doing this. I'm just doing my best for singles."
 

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Kuznetsova's fighting spirit lifts her to new heights
From Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent, in New York
NI_MPU('middle');WHO is next? After Anastasia Myskina and Maria Sharapova, it was the turn of Svetlana Kuznetsova to extend Russia’s bear hug on women’s grand-slam tournaments in 2004. She is more the hammer than the sickle, a free-swinging ball-cruncher whose response to walking out to play in the US Open final was: “Wow, now what should I do here today?”

Once she had made up her mind that winning the championship might not be a bad thing, Kuznetsova got on with the task of defeating Elena Dementieva, her compatriot, 6-3, 7-5, using her knuckle-duster forehand to brutal effect. Kuznetsova was not, in the manner of Amélie Mauresmo and Jennifer Capriati, going to fall for Dementieva’s mess of a serve; she stepped in and treated it with the disdain it merited.



At least Dementieva did not crumble, as she had done in the French Open final against Myskina. She gave as much as she could when having to play, in the metaphorical sense, with one hand tied behind her back. That is almost where she completes her service action from, with its wide-arc toss that forces her to throw her racket arm at least 45 degrees farther out than she should. “I really need to have a better serve to win a grand slam,” she said, a statement of the obvious if ever there was one.

It is the eighth wonder of the world that Dementieva has managed to reach two grand-slam tournament finals with a fundamental of the game in such disarray. More often than not, the third stroke of a rally is her strong suit, given that she can nail a decent groundstroke if her opponent miscues, having gawked in disbelief at a serve that is so puny. But she has to play so much on the defensive in every rally that it has to take a toll.

Kuznetsova was eager to go for the jugular. Those closest to her had been telling the 19-year-old for months that she had it in her to be a champion. She had lost 8-6 in the final set of a fourth-round match to Myskina at the French Open, having had a match point; she went on to win the Hastings Direct Championship at Eastbourne, only to fall at the first hurdle at Wimbledon to Virginie Razzano, of France. But, in the manner of her parents, both international cyclists, she pulled herself together and returned to the saddle.

The reward was a cheque for $1 million (about £555,300), the largest in the women’s grand-slam events, a highest ranking of No 6 and universal acclaim. She is not going to be the darling of the popular press in the Sharapova mould, her game is not one blessed with aesthetic beauty, but it gets the job done and she made hay while, for the first time in the Open era, not one of the top four seeds made the semi-finals. There has been plenty of change in the rankings. Mauresmo is the new No 1, although she has played in only one grand-slam final, in Australia five years ago; Justine Henin-Hardenne is not what she was and Lindsay Davenport, who would have returned to the top had her hip not given out in a warm-up before her semi-final, does not know how long she can remain a force. Kim Clijsters, who has missed the past three slams with a wrist injury, was pounding balls on the practice court last week and there are the Williams sisters whose father, Richard, said in one interview that he thinks they should quit now because officialdom does not want them around in tennis any more
 

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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>
 

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Building Of A Champion: Coaches Reveal Story Behind Kuznetsova's Rise


Svetlana Kuznetsova By Sanchez-Casal Academy Staff
09/20/2004

Svetlana Kuznetsova, "Sveta" as we call her, arrived at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona in 1999. She was about 14 years old. Her mother, Galina Tsareva, was an Olympic cycling champion and her father, Alexandr Kuznetsov, a cycling coach who was conducting preseason training in a city nearby, about 100 kilometers away.


But Svetlana wanted to take a different path: she wanted to become a tennis player.

The first time we met Sveta, our staff at the Sanchez-Casal Academy shared a common reaction: she was so shy she would not look at you, she had no confidence in herself, but every time she hit the ball the noise it made was scary. It was something we had not seen or heard before from a girl, maybe slightly similar to Andy Roddick. She reminded us a little bit of Arantxa (Sanchez Vicario) when was little — an incredible talent — but with strokes we had not seen from junior girls her age before.

We had a staff meeting and decided that we would help her. At that time we just started the Academy and didn’t have many players at Sveta's level.

She felt very relaxed because we decided at the very beginning to establish a very simple goal: to train Sveta to become the best player possible; an all-court player who didn't have to win from the first day. I think she appreciated and valued this approach because in Russia, Sveta was always under intense pressure. We believe our approach helped improve her confidence as Sveta saw she was winning matches because she was a better player, not because she was pressured to win.

Less than two years later, she was already the No. 1 junior in the world at the age of 16. We tried to convince the Spanish Tennis Federation to help her become a Spanish citizen, but they didn’t believe the potential that we saw in her. The Federation's president at that time said: "She’s a mediocre player who never will be in the top 20. We have people offering players like this to us every month." Yet today, after Arantxa's retirement and Conchita (Martinez) in the final phase of her career, Spain is in deep trouble in its efforts to produce top female players.

At the age of 17, Sveta began traveling with Arantxa and her team of coaches from the Academy. That year she won her first professional event in singles and three doubles tournaments together with Arantxa. Playing and training with Arantxa taught Sveta discipline, strategy and how to be a true professional. Arantxa opened the first door for her and helped mentor her. At that time, Arantxa was Martina Navratilova's partner. Martina was also training in our traveling group. Once Arantxa retired at the end of the year, Martina, who is smart and knows talent, talked Sveta into playing with her. In 2003 they won four titles and played the year-end WTA Tour Championships. Martina taught her how to play inside the court. She opened the second door for Sveta.

When two former No. 1 players — Arantxa and Martina — recorded some of their best recent doubles results playing with a rookie, it proved to many that Sveta had talent. Sveta's confirmation as a top singles player came the same year as she advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals and finished in the top 30. Stephan, her personal coach from the Academy, traveled with her for those two years, which were the most difficult ones. Giselle, the academy's physical coach did a great job improving her mobility, which was one of her weaknesses. Both coaches stayed with Martina when she decided to play with Lisa Raymond and go for the Olympics in 2004. Sveta was very disappointed and was ready to quit playing doubles.

All the coaching credit for those two years of Sveta's career should go to Stephan who worked with her through her maturation as a player and a woman.

"She can be lovely and great to work with as well as very difficult and not understandable," Stephan said of Sveta.

Angel Gimenez took over the coaching and with Sergio’s (Sergio Casal) help convinced her that she still had to improve two very important aspects of her game: her serve and her play inside the court. Angel and Sergio told Sveta if she didn't play doubles, it would be more difficult for her to fulfill her potential. After a long conversation, she understand our point and accepted.

Sveta started to play doubles with Elena Likhovtseva to prepare for the Olympics. Our goal for 2004 was to take more advantage of her serve in order to play more effectively inside the court. She wanted to qualify for the Olympics and the year-end WTA Tour Championships.

The preseason was a very demanding training session. Sveta worked harder than ever before and her hard work paid off as the results came immediately. We believed Sveta was making major improvements. She was maturing, believing in herself and realizing it was all about her. She started to win regularly and improve her results. Her losses were usually to the higher-ranked players. In March, Sveta was ranked 20th when she handed top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne her first loss of the season, a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 defeat at the $600,000 Qatar Total Open in Doha. The victory came nearly a week after Sveta beat Venus Williams.

"The other players started to respect her (then)," Angel said. "If she controls her power something big will happen."

At Roland Garros, Sveta had two match points against Anastasia Myskina, but could not close the match. Myskina went on to beat Dementieva to win Roland Garros and Sveta knew she had nearly beaten the champion. From the red clay, Sveta went to the grass courts and won in Eastbourne. At the Olympics she almost won a medal, losing to Mauresmo in a close match.

The Myskina win in Paris, Maria Sharapova's win at Wimbledon and victories by Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva, Nadia Petrova and Elena Bovina in others events served as incredible motivators for Sveta. Competitive images and hunger are the most successful motivators. Most importantly, Sveta believed in herself and knew it was time to show she could win. She found maturity and started to get results.

Sveta already registered the fastest women's serve at the U.S. Open ( 208km/h), struck the most aces (44) and had only lost one set to Davenport in the tournament before she beat Dementieva in the final. Based on the way she played throughout the tournament, our coaches believed she could take the title.

"Serving this way and with a bit of order in her game, she is much better than all other players," said Sergio Casal, who was coaching Sveta at the Open. "She can win this thing."

She did exactly that.

Sveta's parents, who come from an athletic background, deserve credit because they let every person at the Academy do their job and do the best for their daughter. Sveta was very mature in most cases, making big decisions that helped her career, which is not always common on the tour.

Sveta followed her success at the U.S. Open by winning her second consecutive tournament title in Bali and extending her winning streak to 11 matches in the process. She will go to Beijing next, where she will play doubles with Arantxa. She is also supposed to play in Stuttgart, Moscow, the Zurich Masters and the Fed Cup finals. But this could change if she keeps playing so well and so much. It is tough for those players who advance so far in each event to maintain such a demanding schedule all year.

We believe Sveta's confidence improved substantially, but she still has to be more consistent in believing that she can be the best and must continue to keep working hard to reach that goal.

To relax and to find inspiration, she listens to music all the time. She is addicted to this mp3 player and has more that 2,000 songs on it. She is truly a music alcoholic.

"Sveta" is her nickname name because Svetlana is to difficult to say in Spanish, and "Kuzne" is another nickname as well. Sveta is very easy going and has a good sense of humor. Sometimes, because of her shyness, people thinks she is arrogant. But she is not arrogant and people who think that usually don't know her very well.

Sveta is the best achievement for our Academy in six years of hard work. Arantxa had great results as well, but was already complete as a player when we worked together. The same may be true for Bovina, who has trained with us since June. Many other WTA players come to our Academy for part-time practices: Jelena Dokic, Maggie Maleeva, Chanda Rubin, Daniela Hantuchova, Janette Husarova and others. Most of our players are younger, from ages 13 to 17, and do their education at the same time. We believe this is very important.

On the boys side, we're very proud to say that the junior U.S. Open champion Andre Murray is also living and training with us part-time. Other players such as Juan Monaco and Gilles Muller also came out from our program.

Our staff includes five former Davis Cup coaches who share all responsibilities for all our players. We are very proud to work with the U.S. Open women's champion and U.S. Open boys champion and believe both will continue to develop as players.

http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=11470&bannerregion=
 

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Discussion Starter #30
goldenlox said:
To Kuznetsova, what Myskina has is a lot of fight. "She just fights very much," Kuznetsova said, "and she never gives you an easy game. She runs. And she's clever, you know."



Kuznetsova's assets are more robust. She might not be able to lift a building, but she looks as if she could. With her strength, she could be the most nimble of the Russians.

"Maybe," she said.

A modest sort, Kuznetsova, now ranked No. 9. Also a dedicated individual. She has chosen to make her base not in her place of birth, St. Petersburg, but in Barcelona, Spain, where the climate is more conducive to playing tennis than it is in the place associated with the czars. She acknowledged she misses her homeland.

"But if I want to be something in my life, I have to do something," she explained. "I can be No. 1, I think."

A large statement by a player who has yet to break through in a WTA Tour singles event, but listen to Kuznetsova and one gets the feeling her ambitions are realistic.

"I want to improve my speed, my game, everything," she said. "I'm looking for perfection in everything. It's like I am in competition with myself."

But for one point, it might have been Kuznetsova being acclaimed in Paris rather than Myskina. In her match against Myskina, Kuznetsova, serving, held match point. "But I was rushing too much," she said. She failed on a ground stroke and Myskina was able to complete a 1-6, 6-4, 8-6 conquest. From there, Myskina went on to her straight-set decimation of Elena Dementieva (also due at La Costa) in the final.



Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, the tour's ranking player, stopped Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals 6-2, 6-2. Kuznetsova's effort suggested her game fits nicely on grass, but she said she doesn't regard grass as her preferred surface. "Not really," she said. "I think I can play anywhere."
Very true, and from before Wimbledon.
 

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sveta has made huge leaps and bounds over the last year and she can play on all surfaces but with winning the us open, all that confidence plus she is playing better more regulary i think grass will be one of her best surfaces and she'll really be in the running for wimbledon next year if she keeps going the way she is.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
goldenlox said:
Kuznetsova - rising up the rankings
KUZNETSOVA BOOSTS RUSSIAN REVOLUTION By Mark Staniforth, PA Sport

Svetlana Kuznetsova is the latest Russian to spearhead her country's assault on the top of women's tennis.

The 18-year-old Muscovite reached number 14 in the world rankings this week after a breakthrough fortnight in the Middle East.

Last year's surprise Wimbledon quarter-finalist has barely broken stride since joining the senior circuit.

Successful and educational doubles pairings with veteran legends Martina Navratilova and Todd Woodbridge are clearly beginning to pay off.

Kuznetsova has won the WTA's performance of the week award for two weeks running, following her Dubai quarter-final win over Venus Williams by becoming the first player to snap Justine Henin-Hardenne's winning streak this week.

The Belgian world number one had won all 16 of her matches this year until Kuznetsova came from a set behind to reach the final in Doha.

"I believed in myself," said Kuznetsova. "I knew I could win the match. You get experience from playing the top players."

Kuznetsova's is not a stereotypical story of overbearing parents thrusting a tennis racket into daughter's hands before she can walk.

She grew up in Moscow in a family of cyclists and admits she was largely oblivious to the new trend begun by stars like Anna Kournikova and Marat Safin.

Only in her early teens did Kuznetsova belatedly begin to excel enough to earn a scholarship at the famous Emilio Sanchez Academy in Spain.

But she admits that having reached a competitive level the influx of young Russian rivals only helped spur her on to success.

Kuznetsova is only the fifth-ranked Russian at number 14, behind Anastasia Myskina - who beat her in Qatar - Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova. Five more Russians take the total to 10 in the top 100.

Kutnetsova said: "I think there is no doubt the success is because we are so many.

"We compete against each other because everybody wants to prove they are the best in their country.

"One person gets good results and the other wants to do better. We are very competitive but it is all positive. We are friends with each other - but when we get on court we fight.

"It is also because of the mentality. It is very tough practising in Russia and you never have sponsorship. There is a lot of talent but you have to get lucky."

In Kuznetsova's case she admits she has been boosted by the close attention of a player almost 30 year her senior.

Navratilova has helped Kuznetsova garner 10 doubles titles already, including two this year.

And the young Russian admits she is lucky to have such a legend on her side as she begins to focus on cracking the top 10.

"I learn a lot from Martina - I learn and learn. She shows me lots of things.

"She explains what she thinks about my game and what I can do to get better."
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© Jorge Ferrari

Players Quickly Taking Notice of Kuznetsova

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - After Svetlana Kuznetsova's performances over the last two weeks, there's probably more than just a few players at this week's Pacific Life Open who paid closer attention to where the Russian was in the draw. "I’m enjoying playing my game now," said Kuznetsova, who is the No.12 seed this week in Indian Wells. "I do not feel any pressure with the attention I’m getting. I love people to come and watch me. That’s what we do, we play for people and I want to play my best and be able to give them a good show."

Although she won two singles titles back in 2002 (Helsinki, Bali), it was rather clear from the first week that this was the year that Kuznetsova's game was ready to move to a new level. Despite a first round setback in Hobart, the 18-year-old reached the quarterfinals in Gold Coast and fought through a tough straight sets loss to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the third round at the Australian Open.

Kuznetsova, who resides in her birthplace of St. Petersburg, took the next four weeks off before having her first true breakthrough of the season in Dubai, marching through to the final, but not before a bit of commotion along the way. She began the week by upsetting No.7 seed Francesca Schiavone and two rounds later made the stunning upset of No.2 seed Venus Williams.

Her semifinal match saw another seed pushed aside, this time No.5 Ai Sugiyama falling victim to the Russian's thunderous game before a rematch with Henin-Hardenne awaited Kuznetsova in the final. The two battled to a tiebreak in the first set before the World No.1 emerged from the first set and finished off the match in the second.

The loss to Henin-Hardenne didn't derail Kuznetsova's spirits and she only showed up stronger the following week in Doha, losing only seven games in wins against Stephanie Cohen-Aloro and Anca Barna. Meghann Shaughnessy was lucky enough to take the first set in their quarterfinal clash before the Russian ignited to blaze into the semifinals.

Once again, there sat Henin-Hardenne - riding a 16-match winning streak and the only person on Tour looking more invincible at the moment than Kuznetsova. But this time, a confident Kuznetsova handed Henin-Hardenne her first loss of the year and marched into a title match for the second straight week.

Kuznetsova began the year at No.36 in the world, but her recent back-to-back championship match appearances have pushed her all the way to a career-best No.14.

"It’s good to have a ranking goal, but for me, the most important thing is to keep improving my game and my concentration, the rankings will follow," Kuznetsova said. "At the beginning of the year, I was aiming at the Top 20, I didn’t expect to reach it so fast. I am playing well at the moment and I am enjoying these past two weeks."

One of Kuznetsova's big inspirations this year has been former doubles partner and current mentor (as part of the WTA Tour's Partners For Success program) Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. Kuznetsova teamed with Sanchez-Vicario to win three doubles titles in 2002 and the former World No.1 has been a big motivator this season.

"She is my mentor on and off the court," Kuznetsova said. "I spoke to her tonight right after my match (against Justine). She’s always giving me advice. I can talk to her about anything whether it’s tennis or anything else. She also made me more confident and believed in me. When she asked me to play doubles with her, I was very honored."

Kuznetsova, who is currently ranked No.5 in doubles, was also honored when tennis legend Martina Navratilova personally approached Sanchez-Vicario and asked if she could start playing with Kuznetsova once the Spaniard retired at the end of the 2002 season.

"Martina has also always been good to me," Kuznetsova said. "She taught me a lot, mainly to have a better attitude during matches and to be positive. She also told me to move more forward, and to come to the net, serve and volley. I try to do this now. Basically, she’s taught me to be more professional."

Playing alongside two of tennis' greatest players has surely benefitted the 18-year-old, but having a family pedigree filled with athletic greatness definitely plays a part in Kuznetsova's drive to become successful in her line of work.

Kuznetsova's father, Alexandr, has been the cycling coach to five Olympic champions and world champions and is currently the coach of Lokomotiv, the best cycling club in Russia. Her mother, Galina Tsareva is a six-time world champion and holder of 20 world records. Even brother Nikolai has found second-generation success, picking up a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

"I’m Russian and I would love to do well for my country," Kuznetsova said. "Olympics have always been a passion in my family. My father went, my brother went and won a silver medal. My mother, who won six world championships, never went although it was her dream to go. She was not able to go. So now, I also want to do this for my mother. It will make her so so proud and happy."

Kuznetsova's leap in the rankings definitely can't hurt her chances of reaching this summer's Olympic Games in Athens as a singles participant. She's also already began preparations on the doubles side, pairing this year with countrywoman Elena Likhovtseva. The duo are currently in the top position of the Porsche Race to the Championships Team standings and have won titles in Gold Coast and Doha.





Sveta said when 2004 started, her goal was to be top 20.
I think a good 2005 goal is stay in the top 5, and win another major.
 

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great interviews! surprised to find out her parents were really good cyclists! :D
 

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svetlana aint from moscow! she's from st petersburg russia. oh my!
 

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staying in the top 5 is a good goal for 2005 and if she works hard it is achievable, another major might be tough but if she has a good 2 weeks at the right time you never know. yeah she comes from sporting origins.
 

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Discussion Starter #38
veryborednow said:
How difficult was it to find courts to play on when you first started playing tennis?
Courts to find are easy if you have money. Free courts, you cannot find there. It's not like maybe here. I don't know how it works here but there you are always paying. You have to pay for everything. When I go to my city I pay for everything; club, courts, ball, coach, practice partner ... everything.

Does your federation help you out? Do they have a facility where you can practice?
No. My father, he pays for me for everything. The Russian Federation did send us here to play the team competition. I think it is very good that we came one week ago to practice before the tournament. So we have been here ... our team; boys and girls. We were together all the time so now we are like brothers and sisters and we are really good now. We played and won both titles so it was very good. They paid for us and will pay hospitality for Orange Bowl for me.

Growing up, your father helped you along. Did he start you in tennis?
All my family are cyclists. My father still coaches. My mother she was a very good cyclist. My brother was also good but he stopped now. He is 29 and has a family and works with my father. My father said, "go play tennis, just go, go somewhere but not bike".....I said, "OK." When I was young I did cycle. I was racing twice or three times in my life. I was only six years old.

Your father supported your tennis?
He's a very good coach! It is similar, the strategy of the sport. He is helping, sometimes you can't find the way where you have to go. He tells me how much I have to practice. My mom helps all the time with me. I've been changing coaches so much. My mother, she knows very good about sports and everything. She's won 6 championships of the World in sprint in track. She will say, "this coach doesn't want to work." She doesn't like this thing. We were changing, changing, changing and now we finally found a place.

You found a coach you are happy with?
It's not a coach. I'm practicing at a club. It's Emilio Sanchez, in Barcelona Spain. I am staying now in Spain all the time.

Are you traveling a lot?
Yes I do. I've been everywhere this year. Australia, Japan, Brazil ... everywhere.

Did your Mom travel a lot?
My mother did the same thing before when I did not have a private coach. I still don't have it. Before I went to the club, she was traveling with me. She was helping instead of coach. She understands tennis. She knows what she is speaking about and was helping me, but sometimes children do not listen to the parents.

Any other brothers and sisters?
Just one brother, Nikolai. He was also very good in cycling. He was in Atlanta 1996. They got the silver, second place. My father was the coach of them.

So, why is your father good at coaching bicycling and tennis?
My father, he is very good in strategy. You can see the results every time. He has coached 5 Olympic champions. I think that is good result.

How is tennis in Russia now. Is it very difficult for the players?
I think there is a lot of talent and a lot of girls that are very good but every one stop because of money.

1999 world number one, Lena Krasnoroutskaia is from Russia. Do you know her?
When I started to play I saw her. She was number one (juniors). After, when I was grow, I didn't see her because she was playing WTA. Now I saw her in Wimbledon and we met. I said "hi, how ya doing," and now we know each other.

Do you know of any young players that are coming up in Russia? How about Maria Kirilenko and Dasha Chemarda?
Dasha is younger then me by one year and Maria two years. I didn't see her play and Maria I didn't see for three years. I know she has coach and sponsor so she should be OK. Now it will be up to her. In Russia there are a lot of players that are good that do not have sponsors. There are a lot of young young people that are doing very well. Coaches are getting crazy. They are starting to practice unbelievable times and breaking the players.. Some practice 8 hours a day at 11 years old. 8 hours in the day ... it's impossible.

How much practice did you do growing up?

I have not been practicing a lot. Now, just doing a lot in club. 6, 4, 5 hours, it depends on how I am feeling. If I am down, no one will push me. Everyone trust me that I know what to do. If I feel good, I practice more. I remember when I was young, I was with a coach, for about two years and we were in practice with 4 people on one court. Four people on one court for one hour. The court was indoors in a small place and the mountain climbers also used this area to practice. They would climb over the roof as we practiced!

Are there any tennis camps in Russia.
There are some but not big.

Where are you going from here?

Next year I will play as many pros as I can, but you know they are limited.

Will you be playing junior Grand Slams?
I don't know, I would like to play Roland Garros but if there is another tournament on at the same time, I will play that.
Good interview
 

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thanks for the awesome articles - is it true sveta is a music junkie
 

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yeah thanks for the articles.
 
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