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The Tennis Week Interview: Viktoriya Kutuzova

By Brad Falkner
08/08/2003

Viktoriya Kutuzova is not your typical 14-year-old, and she'd rather not be referred to as one either. When reporters commented about her age she often responds by saying "I'm 15, well I will be in two weeks."

The cute bubbly, blond, bears a slight resemblance to another well-known Russian player. Clad in adidas athletic wear, sporting a braided ponytail and yielding a Yonex tennis racquet, from a distance you'd swear it was Anna Kournikova
Kutuzova's junior achievements include the 2003 Australian Open finalist, Astrid Bowl finalist, and Winter Cup semifinalist.

Even Kutuzova's game is reminiscent of Kournikova's — minus the double faults. She can hit both flat and topspin winners off her forehand flank ,and is equally capable with her two handed backhand, which she often uses to set up points with precise cross court angles that she can follow up with beautifully placed down the line backhand winners. Her first serves are frequently hit in the mid 90 mph range. Her return game is solid, but will need to improve against the game's top servers.

Kutuzova has the confidence and poise of a seasoned veteran. With a No. 451 world ranking Victoria has already proved that numbers aren't always an accurate measurement of talent. In her first round match at the JP Morgan Chase Open she upset Lina Krasnoroutskaya with solid 6-4, 6-4 victory. In the second round, she stunned 15th-seeded Alexandra Stevenson, who retired with a sore shoulder while trailing 3-6, 3-3. Those wins will catapult Kutuzova's ranking next week between a projected No. 265 to 270.

On Thursday, Ai Sugiyama ended Kutuzova's Cinderella story with a 6-2, 6-3 third- round victory.

"She played one bad game in each set," said Sugiyama, who beat Kim Clijsters to win Scottsdale in the spring. "For sure, she is coming up."

I sat down with this talented, amiable and ambitious Ukrainian to discuss her current place in tennis and plans for the future as well as why Chris Evert, Pete Sampras' and the 14-time Grand Slam champion's brother, Gus Sampras, are her favorite players.

Tennis Week: What have you found to be the biggest difference between juniors and the pros?

Viktoriya Kutuzova: The junior players are not as smart on the court. On really important points, they try to just get the ball back. The pros try to hit the ball very hard, they see very fast how to play the points, and on the big points they are not afraid to go for it.

TW: Will you play the U.S. Open juniors?

VK: I don't want to play juniors anymore. I'm really ready to play pro. I hope that my agent can take care of a wild card for the U.S. Open. Even if I don't get a wild card I won't play the juniors at the Open.

TW: Is that because now you are a target for junior players? Or is it more a question of having little to gain and much to lose?

VK: Right. I don't want to play juniors because now everybody wants to beat me. Everybody is going to be like 'she beat some pro players, I need to beat her'. I have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

TW: How do you feel about the WTA age eligibility rule?

VK: I want to play more tournaments, but I can't do nothing about it. I can play eight tournaments and it's not very good because I feel like I am ready. But maybe it's good because I'm not very strong physically, I was very tired today from my last two matches. Maybe it's a good rule. You will have eight tournaments and you will be ready for all eight tournaments. When you have 30 tournaments in a year you will be tired physically.

TW: You see it as more of a question of physically not being able to handle the work load, rather than psychological burn-out?

VK: Yes, psychologically, I'm ready. Physically not yet, when I am 18 I'll be ready.

TW: What are your strengths?

VK: My style is to try to hit the ball very hard and I am fast. Today, I couldn't move very fast because I was tired from the other two matches. I have a good serve. I have a balanced game.

TW: Where is your favorite place in the U.S.?

VK: Boca Raton. I was practicing there at Chris Evert's place. It is such a beautiful place. I can rest there and I can practice.

TW: How long have you lived in the States?

VK: I'm just in the States to practice and play tournaments. I live in the Ukraine.

TW: Who are your favorite players?

VK: Pete Sampras, because his brother gave me a wild card here (laughs). This is first reason. Second reason is because he very smart player and a very good champion. He's a legend, the same like with Chris Evert. I practiced with her few times. She's in really good form now. She can still hit the ball very hard, its very difficult to play against her. And she's really nice to me, she talks to me.

TW: Was there a certain player that when you were developing your game that you tried to emulate or whose playing style you tried to copy?

VK: I like how Serena serves. I can say I like how Seles hits the ball. I can say I like how Steffi Graf thinks out on the court. Not just one person.

TW: It must be very exciting for a 14-year-old girl to be succeeding at professional tennis?

VK: I will be 15 in two weeks (August 19th). This is new. I like everything, because it's new, the hotels, the cars (tour transportation). When you are a junior... I don't like to think about juniors. When I was playing the junior Grand Slams this year, I was thinking 'Next Grand Slam I play in, I want to be a pro.'
 

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I wonder if she will be able to pull off a wildcard into qualies...probably not though, I doubt anyone in the USTA has heard of her, lol.
 

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The USTA knows who she is but she is not getting a WC...
 

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Thanks for the interview, Eggy! :D I think Viktorya could be something special. But I don't like her quiting the juniors. Maria Kirilenko and Maria Sharapova quit the juniors, too soon as well. :(

Pitken, as a USTA member I resent that snide USTA remark of yours! ;) :p
 

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I like her she reminds me of Julia Volkova in the way she responds
 
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