Like most people who watch women’s professional tennis these days, I find the onslaught of excellent Russian tennis players absolutely intriguing to say the least.
And speaking of Russian phenoms, would the list be complete without Svetlana Kuznetsova? Of course not.
Along with fellow Russians, the highly visible Maria Sharapova, and Elena Dementieva, Kuznetsova is ushering in a new era of women’s tennis for Russians – and one that is changing the face of the WTA overall.
Kuznetsova, mainly a baseline player, has perfected a powerful and accurate forehand that has helped her rise into the upper echelon of women’s professional tennis the last few years and now causes trouble for her opponents on a routine basis.
She won her first-and only-Grand Slam singles title at the 2004 US Open, where she defeated countrywoman Dememtieva in straight sets in an all-Russian Grand Slam final (the second in history after Myskina-Dementieva at the French Open of the same year).
Kuznetsova is also a very active doubles player and as of January, 2005 ranked third in the doubles rankings. Her second overall Grand Slam title came at the 2005 Australian Open’s women’s doubles event, where she teamed with Australia’s Alicia Molik and defeated Americans Lindsay Davenport and Corina Morariu in the final. Dementieva has also reached five other Grand Slam doubles finals, with Martina Navratilova, Elena Likhovtseva and AmÃ?Â©lie Mauresmo as her partners.
A year after her first Grand Slam victory, Kuznetsova had the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first woman during the Open Era to lose in the first round as a defending women’s champion at the 2005 US Open. She was also involved in a doping scandal and was accused of taking ephedrine but as the test was taken during unofficial competition the case was never investigated.
After an 18-month title drought, Kuznetsova won the Tier I Tournament in Miami on April 1, 2006, beating Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3, ostensibly making her a player to watch at Roland Garros in late Spring 2006. Kuznetsova lived up to expectations by making it to the Final at Roland Garros. In the final match however, Kuznetsova fought hard but was unable to beat the premier women’s clay court player, Justine Henin-Hardenne, losing 4-6, 4-6.
However, Kuznetsova remains one of a handful of women who are competing in this year’s Wimbledon with a legitimate chance of winning the championship. Heck, the way the Russian women have almost taken over the WTA, I wouldn’t put a thing past Kuznetsova or her fellow countrywomen.