Svetlana Kuznetsova Wins Singles Championship
June 6, 2009 -- Hats are off today in Paris, and around the world, for Svetlana Kuznetsova the women's singles champion of this year's French Open. She defeated her friend and countrywoman Dinara Safina, the #1 seed and expected victor, 64 62.
The obstacles in Safina's way were pressure from expectations and tame execution of her normally robust tennis. This was her second appearance in a French Open final; and, it was supposed to be her day of glory. Unfortunately for Safina it ended poorly, as she double faulted to lose the championship.
"I put pressure on myself because I really wanted to win," Safina began. "I was a little bit desperate, and didn't do the things that I had to. Didn't stay tough mentally. I lost myself."
Kuznetsova has now won two Grand Slam titles -- this year's French Open and the U. S. Open in 2004.
"I came on the court and just played the match," Kuznetsova said. "It was just one more match. I just did my best."
The #7 seed was a finalist in Paris in 2006 where she had match points on the eventual winner and three-time champion Justin Henin; and, she was the finalist in 2004 when she lost to Anastasia Myskina. Last year she lost in the semifinals to Safina. Kuznetsova's win today is remarkable for another reason -- she usually is the runner up. Over her career she has stacked up eighteen finalist wins in tour singles events and fifteen in doubles.
"I work hard and I still did hard work every year. And I tried to do my best here. It's very important tournament for me, because it's full of emotions. I said I just going to keep trying and keep working and keep doing this. This is finally my trophy. I have won Roland Garros and I have won U. S. Open. They are my favorite tournaments."
In 2008, her fourth season in the top ten, she ended up in second place five times at WTA Tour events. But on her run at this year's Roland Garros, she defeated several women who had stood in her way last year: Dinara Safina, Serena Williams, and Agnieszka Radwanska.
In March Kuznetsova ended her coaching relationship with Olga Morozova -- the first Russian tennis player to win a Grand Slam title. She won the doubles championship alongside Chris Evert at the 1974 French Open. In May Kuznetsova hired Larisa Savchenko as her new coach.
Kuznetsova recently changed her life drastically, after having lived and trained in Barcelona, Spain, at the Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy for many years. She decided to return to her home in Russia to revitalize her game and life, after several years of results that did not reflect her potential as an athlete. Kuznetsova father and mother are world-class cycling champions, as is her brother Nikolai.
In her match today the new French Open champion certainly demonstrated her superb athleticism, her ability to adapt to the shifting clay conditions, and her comfort on it. They aided her win while causing all sorts of problems for Safina, who prefers balls that bounce higher when the clay is drier.
Kuznetsova moved Safina around the court and kept up rallies until Safina was out of position. Kuznetsova used an array of drop shots against her rival, too. Finally, she was 6 for 6 on net approaches.
Kuznetsova's comfort at the net was honed to a great extent when she partnered with Martina Navratilova in 2003. Together they won five doubles titles. Kuznetsova and Alicia Molik won the women's doubles championship at The Australian Open in 2005.
The first chink in Safina's armor came in the eighth game of the first set. Safina was down love-forty. She saved two break points, smashing winners to both corners of the court. However, at 30-40 Kuznetsova hit a game-winning ball that skidded off the slippery tape.
With the first set on her racquet, Kuznetsova did what she'd done in previous matches these last two weeksÉ she choked. However, so did Safina in the next game. And like the final game of this championship match, Kuznetsova took the first set on a break of serve from the rattled Safina.
"I was calm," Kuznetsova said. "It was similar feeling when I won the U. S. Open. I cannot explain it. I came out there and said 'everything's great.' I'm just doing my thing I love. It's my passion. It's my job. And I cannot ask for more. You know, God gave me this opportunity to do well, and I'm doing my best. I cannot wish for more."
Earlier Columns from this Event:
June 5, 2009 French Open Coverage: Roger and Robin To Play French Final
June 4, 2009 French Open Coverage: The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming
June 3, 2009 French Open Coverage: As The Clay Settles
June 2, 2009 French Open Coverage: And The Hits Just Keep On Coming
June 1, 2009 French Open Coverage: The Vacuum Left by Nadal
May 31, 2009 French Open Coverage: Both Defending Champs Out At French Open
May 30, 2009 French Open Coverage: Draw Opens as Djokovic Falls In Three
May 29, 2009 French Open Coverage: What's Up With All That Noise!
May 28, 2009 French Open Coverage: The Shifting Clay of Roland Garros
May 27, 2009 French Open Coverage: The Heart of a Champion
May 26, 2009 French Open Coverage: American Women in Paris
May 25, 2009 French Open Coverage: Sharapova Fights On, Nadal and Federer Cruise
May 24, 2009 French Open Coverage: Bienvenue au Paris