In today’s SAP Stat Of The Day, Elise Mertens notched a couple of huge career milestones at the Hobart International.
Svetlana Kuznetsova ended 2016 at such a breakneck pace that it was hard for the Russian to slow down in the off-season.
“I just didn’t want to totally switch off, so that’s why I kept going, trying to do something,” she told WTA Insider before the Brisbane International. “Even in the Maldives, when I was with my parents, I still had some sessions, running or whatever it is.
“The body of an athlete has to be moving all the time. No stopping. One week, maybe a few days, you can let yourself go, but you feel better when you’re moving.”
The former World No.2 was almost unstoppable last fall, moving from a must-win week in Moscow to a long-awaited return to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in seven years. Kuznetsova kicked off the new season with a 600th match win, ranking her fifth among active players.
“It’s a great achievement, a lot of matches to count” ?
-@SvetlanaK27 on reaching 600 career wins pic.twitter.com/hhdl0dUwo6
— WTA (@WTA) January 2, 2017
“My physio told me it’s only a couple more until I get to 1000, and I was like ‘What?’ But I started to think about 600, and how sometimes you get confused in matches when you’re playing, thinking ‘How do I do this?’ But then I think, ‘In 600 matches, you haven’t learned how to win?'”
There’s clearly been a lot more winning of late, as the two-time Grand Slam champion returned to the Top 10 after being as low as No.85 four years ago.
“I would love to take some of the consistency into this season. In the last few years, I haven’t been so good; I was always there, but couldn’t quite flip the switch. I would love to stay with the switch on, because it’s the key for me.”
#WTA leading 22 three set match wins!
World No.9 @SvetlanaK27! pic.twitter.com/CNSLBGWua9
— WTA (@WTA) December 23, 2016
Part of the key to that consistency has been maintaining a simplistic approach to each match, focusing on one point at a time.
“The most difficult things in life are often the most simple ones. Even when you start to play tennis, what do they tell you? Look at the ball. It’s the main thing in the whole life of a player. Some players forget to look at the ball, and you don’t think about it. Any player, even the No.1 – I don’t know, maybe, I’ve never been there, but No.2 for sure.
“Sometimes when you keep losing, and you’re thinking, ‘Damn, it’s so hard; how do I get there? It’s impossible.’ Then something goes on and you start winning and you think how it’s so simple. It’s the theory of life, what happens to everyone; when you’re on top, it looks simple. It’s not really like that, but when you’re there, that’s how it looks. When you’re not, it seems so much more complicated.
“I feel that I’m playing as well as the best in the world, and I have a chance to beat them and be ranked among them everywhere I go. It’s a great feeling because I worked really hard to be there; it’s a pleasure.”
Sveta on the Stretch!@SvetlanaK27 takes @BrisbaneTennis Day 4 Shot of the Day with this brilliant volley! pic.twitter.com/6EgWW4egIB
— WTA (@WTA) January 4, 2017
With that pleasure comes increased expectation; Kuznetsova opens against Mariana Duque Mariño on Monday, and is seeded to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since the 2014 French Open, but the more things change, the more they stay the same for the 31-year-old veteran.
“People see me differently now because I’m a Top 10 player again. They don’t see you like a Top 10 player when you don’t have that same confidence. Players will only see you by the ranking, and ranking reflects everything. You can’t cheat the ranking, that’s for sure!
“All players want to beat me and I definitely don’t have this easy life where I’ve never been at the top and top players don’t expect anything good. Of course, everyone expects good tennis from me and that can be hard to deal with. But I feel confident, I feel happy and healthy. Those are the main things and I love the game; I enjoy it.
“If I feel like this, I’m ready to go for it and one day I’ll make it.”
.@SvetlanaK27 taking an unusual approach to her warm up today ??? #SydneyTennis pic.twitter.com/uMRSU4t4WW
— Apia Intl Sydney (@SydneyTennis) January 8, 2017
With no immediate goals, Kuznetsova does hope to one day surpass the quarterfinals, her best finish in Melbourne. She led by a set in two of those three prior appearances in the last eight, falling to Maria Sharapova in 2005 and Serena Williams in 2009.
“I love the event, the crowd, and Australia. The people are very nice; they love beer a lot! I tell my friends I’m in Australia and they tell me what a dream it is for them to travel here.
“I’m already living someone else’s dream, but I would still love to see more places in Australia.”
That dream already came true this year with a debut appearance in Brisbane; might the No.8 seed make another dream come true Down Under?
Qualifier Elise Mertens pulls off the first big surprise of 2017, conquering No.3 seed Monica Niculescu to win her first WTA title at the Hobart International.
How have Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska and the rest of the Top 16 seeds fared at the year’s first Grand Slam?
Top seed Angelique Kerber begins her Australian Open title defense against Lesia Tsurenko with Garbiñe Muguruza looming in the last eight; which young gun drew No.2 seed Serena Williams?