12th May, 2003
One of the top rising stars on the WTA Tour is Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova has not had a problem finding impressive doubles partners, as she has paired with two tennis greats, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Martina Navratilova. Kuznetsova and Navratilova have already won two doubles titles together this year.
In addition, Svetlana has also made her mark on the singles side. Her ranking jumped 216 spots on the season-ending lists between 2001 and 2002, holding a No.43 world ranking at the end of 2002.
Svetlana won her first Tour title last year at Helsinki, as a qualifier ranked No.123. A couple of months later, she won her second Tour title at Bali by defeating doubles partner and friend Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the semifinal and Conchita Martinez in the final.
www.wtatour.com caught up with Svetlana Kuznetsova in Berlin to talk about her career and her off-court interests.
Svetlana: It started when Arantxa retired. Martina (Navratilova) called Emilio (Sanchez-Vicario) and asked if I wanted to play with her. I did not have a partner so I decided to play with her and we started in the Gold Coast.
Q: You had a very impressive junior career and almost immediately enjoyed success on the WTA Tour. What was the hardest thing to deal with in making the transition from junior to senior player?
Svetlana: The hardest thing is the consistency. On the WTA Tour, the level is so much higher that you need to concentrate much more because all the players want to win and you have to fight from the beginning to the end.
Q: Having trained at the Sanchez-Casal Academy, and having spent a lot of time with Arantxa, what is the biggest difference between the Spanish and Russian coaching methods?
Svetlana: When I was in Russia I did not practice much with coaches. The last year that I was in Russia, I had a sparring partner as it was difficult to find a full time coach. In Spain, I felt right away that people outside my family believed in me and tried to help me from day one.
Q: To this point in your career, what has been the most memorable match you have played, and why?
Svetlana: My match against Conchita Martinez in Bali. It was a long and tough week for me. The day before I had defeated Arantxa and I was sad afterwards because I had beaten my friend. It was emotionally very tough to overcome.
Q: What type of things do you like to do on a day off, either at or away from tournaments?
Svetlana: When I am not at tournaments I like to spend time with my friends and family. I enjoy reading and listening to music. When I am at events I try to leave the club as soon as I can so I can go back to my room and relax listening to music or reading a good book.
Q: What tournament do you look forward to the most each year, and why?
Svetlana: I always look forward to Roland Garros and to the Kremlin Cup. Roland Garros has something special. I also have a lot of friends that come to see me and I always have a good time there. The Kremlin Cup because it's in Russia and I am home for a little while. I have the chance to see friends and family that I don't see all year round. I also enjoy Wimbledon because it's my birthday and because of that I have loads of friends with me. This year is a special one for me as I will be 18!
Q: At what moment (i.e. after winning a particular tournament or reaching a certain junior ranking) did you realize you were definitely going to be a professional tennis player?
Svetlana: In 1999, when I left St.Petersburg to go live and practice in Spain. That was a big decision for me and I did it because it was the best thing for me as I wanted to be a professional tennis player.
Q: Which athlete (not necessarily a tennis player) do you most admire, and why?
Svetlana: Lleyton Hewitt because of the way he fights on the court. I admire any athlete that is a fighter.
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