Svetlana eyes final flourish

Kuznetsova reveals change in mindset is behind a career renaissance at 31 years old

Two-time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova is fighting for a place in the WTA Finals in Singapore. She is 10th in the Road to Singapore.
Two-time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova is fighting for a place in the WTA Finals in Singapore. She is 10th in the Road to Singapore.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

For a tennis professional who has passed her 31st birthday, Svetlana Kuznetsova is under no illusion that her career is closer to the end than the beginning.

Yet, that awareness has given the Russian a greater drive and desire for success as she approaches the twilight of her career.

Even though Kuznetsova was beaten 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 by Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in the Wuhan Open semi-finals yesterday, she is set to finish the year in the top 10 of the women's singles world rankings. And she could also qualify for the season-ending Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals for the first time since 2009.

She is 10th in the Road to Singapore standings, with the top eight singles players securing a berth in the elite tournament at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Kuznetsova is the third oldest player in the world's top 10, after the Williams sisters (world No. 2 Serena turned 35 on Monday, while No. 7 Venus is 36).

Indeed, the veteran is working even harder than before and is hungry to finish her career with a flourish.

Starting the year ranked No. 25, she won her 16th career title in Sydney in January, then reached the Miami Open final in April.

Said Kuznetsova, a two-time Major champion who reached a career-high ranking of No. 2: "I think about it in a positive way, to make me go for more.

"I say, 'Look, it's one or two years, and then you're done.

"It helps mentally... to lift myself a little bit, in a funny way.

"When I was 25 or 26, I was like 'I'm so tired. When is the season going to be over?' I knew it was still a long way to go.

"Now I know that it's just a few years left. I know I'm not going to play for ages. It's like, (I want to make) the best out of it and that's it. Now I don't feel tired, I just enjoy (playing)."

Like Kuznetsova, Cibulkova, 27, is also making a comeback of her own.

Since dropping to No. 66 in the WTA rankings earlier this season, the 2014 Australian Open finalist recorded her 45th win this year. That is second only to world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who has 55 wins.

She is assured of a new career-high ranking, rising to No. 8, and she could reach No. 7 if she beats Petra Kvitova to win the Wuhan title.

Kvitova, the 2014 champion, coasted to a surprisingly comfortable 6-1, 6-2 win over Simona Halep in the other semi-final.

A tired Cibulkova, who slept at 4.30am the previous night after her quarter-final against Barbora Strycova ended close to 1am, said: "I felt so many emotions from everything that has happened this year. I'm playing great tennis, getting married, all that stuff helped me a bit mentally. I was more relaxed.

"I want to go further. I want to stay at just one digit (in the world rankings), not two anymore."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Svetlana eyes final flourish'. Print Edition | Subscribe