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March 12, 2007

S. KUZNETSOVA/E. Likhovtseva

6-1, 7-6

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Svetlana.

Q. Looked like it was going along pretty easy, then it got more difficult towards the end there?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: It was hard for me to play her because I think she's one of the best match on the tour. And, yeah, in the start I was very confused and she couldn't put -- she looked like she couldn't put the ball in. Then she start to play better, but I start struggling a little bit and couldn't focus very much on my game in the end. But I get it up. In the important moments, I start playing well, because I had to otherwise I would go for three sets.

Q. Players discuss this all the time, because so many of you have different friends on the tour and many people say, yes, I can just put it aside and not think about who I'm playing, but it sounds like you were thinking a little bit, this is my friend, huh?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, yeah, a little bit. A little bit sometimes gets in your mind. But I was trying and I think it was working pretty well for me. Even the second set, the second set was much better. The first at the start was hard, but I was trying. I was really -- I think I managed well, to put it aside, but it was not easy for me today.

Q. I might note that you're one of my favorites on the tour. I still remember how joyous you were after you won the U.S. Open. But watching you in the beginning of this tournament, I didn't think you were playing with quite as much verve, you might say, with quite as much energy as I usually associate with you. You seem to get that back a good deal today. Am I right?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Thanks. Well, it's no -- we play tournaments every week, so it's very hard to come up every day with the same energy and do this. I still go to the match and I still to do as best as I can, but I think it comes down to some -- some matches you're not 100 percent as you should have been.

Q. Right.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Maybe, but you don't want to waste yourself also in some point. Then I give myself time to get into the tournament, you know, because I don't want to rise my game straight up from the first match, but you cannot ask it from nobody. Everybody gets in the match, and I play better today. I start feeling the ball much better, so that's why I've been hearing a lot lately here, because I couldn't really manage to understand the ball bounce. It's very confusing to say that, but it was very strange. And today I started to do better. So I feel more relaxed about that, so hopefully tomorrow I gonna have better game.

Q. You know, your entry was one of the last that the tournament confirmed, almost on the eve of the tournament they said Svetlana is going to play. A tournament of this sort, as Amy will confirm, has to have -- with this sort of purse, it has to have at least two of the top four ranked women or the tour has to make a rebate to the people that hold the tournament. Did somebody instruct you to enter this tournament?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No, no, nothing like that. I mean, you know, calendar is a very difficult thing. You know, tournaments to have good field, we have very strict rules to put yourself in the tournament. And now I put -- by applying myself to this tournament, it's -- by entering this tournament I put myself in very hard position. It's worth for me. It's better for tour, but I didn't -- I was thinking about myself, about my game. Because I got bronchitis in the start of the year, so I couldn't prepare well for Australian Open, and I was not at my best. So I felt like I need matches.
That's why I enter polish last moment and I went to play there. I played Doha, Dubai, and then I felt I didn't want to go back and practice. I just want to play. So I decided to come here. But I was also asking Double J to change my super-hard designation, which I enter Charleston. So Charleston had very good field, Indian Wells didn't have good field. So I was asking if I were to change it, and they did my English change for me, and, well, I still decided to go and come here.

Q. So did you ask them to let you out of Charleston or did you ask them to let you out of Miami?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, I asked them to change because super-hard designation rule is tournament they pick and they tell you to go.

Q. Right.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: But still, I think they're very good with the players by sometimes going, like, what-would-you-like kind of way. But still the decision of the WTA tour, you play this or that. Which I was happy it was Charleston at the start of the year, but for me, it was tough now because I needed these matches now, not before French Open, you know what I mean?
And I thought it would work so much better for tour, also, because they had not good field here, and they had so good field in Charleston. But I also understand the decision, because in Charleston they had very good field in past years, and then suddenly everybody pull out. By having me, they have more or less better guarantee because I think I have pretty high persons of doing the calendar I'm applying to.

Q. So you have to play Charleston, as well?

Q. You obviously are very, very close. What do you have to do to change in your game to secure the No. 1 position?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I don't think it's so much about the game. I would say it's about just consistent work and just -- it's about being on the court and just doing the right thing all the time. Because I think I got the game. It's nothing like I don't have good backhand or -- I can serve well. I can improve my serve; it would help me a lot. I would work a lot to coming to the net to finish up the points. This is what I would work about technical stuff in the court.
But I would just do it like something that I'm thinking, you know, just to play the points. I read so much of interviews with Roger, he would say it's very important to play important points. So I think that's very important thing.

Q. So that's a mental thing more than it is a physical or technical?

Q. So do you have this self-belief on the important points or is that still something you're working on?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No, but this is about confidence. If you got confidence, you play much better these points. This is about playing matches, so this is another thing why I'm here playing, because I really want to play matches and I want to get this confidence because nothing compares. Neither preparation compares to the feeling like when I won Miami, U.S. Open. I mean, I had the strength. I star the tournament playing so-so, every match getting better. In the middle of Miami, I felt I couldn't miss a ball.
This is this confidence which gives you, go higher, and the sooner you have it, the better you will be.

Q. So when you play someone like Justine, who you played so many times, she has the confidence on the important points and your confidence kind of goes away a little bit?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, with Justine it's a bit different story. I'm saying about everything else. But Justine, I think I should take it differently mentally, nothing about the game, also.

Q. Explain a little more.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, I have my kiss to it, I'm thinking of so many points, you know. I just cannot (indiscernible). I want to keep it up to me till I do it, till I prove. But if I prove, I think things can change for me to very good way.

Q. So you're saying that she's almost in your head? You don't really --
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I wouldn't say that she's there, you know. I wouldn't go like, "Oh, Justine." But I mean, I have huge respect for her, that's true, but maybe I should put it a bit lower, you know. But, still, I think it's just different the way I play because I expect maybe too much from her game than I should have.

Q. Have you seen any videos of, like, matches from the '70s or the '80s?

Q. You ever watched --

Q. -- those matches?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No. I mean, the thing is, I always said I was never into the tennis, you know. I was about cycling. I saw my mom cycling on the track, this is what I did when I was younger. I never was watching tennis.

Q. So I mean --
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I mean, of course I saw few points of, like Navratilova winning tournaments and stuff, but I never would watch like matches you know.

Q. Right. You think about the way that racquet technology has changed the sport, if you look at those old films, it looks like they're playing half speed compared to today.

Q. I'm just wondering if you think that's a good thing? That's a bad thing? Is there anything lost in the type of technology and power there is today?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: It's funny because yesterday, or the day before yesterday, I was talking to Martin (indiscernible), he's from Fila, and he played before, he played very well, and I was asking, I was just curious. I said, "If I would take the wood racquet, would I put the ball in with my closed grip on my forehand or somebody else, like how would it be possible? Would it be or no?"
He goes, "Well, I don't know. It's just curious. You should just play in exhibition with this racquet one day."
I'm like, "Yeah, that's gonna be cool, you know."

But then I also understand it was very tough to generate power from this racquet.

Q. How do you think you'd play if everyone was using wood racquets today? Do you think your game would be better or worse compared to everyone else?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I think I would, Amelie Mauresmo would be No. 1 because her style is more classic, you know, and -- well, but her forehand is too close.

Q. What about you, do you think your game would be better or worse?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I don't know. I think you should have lots of touch and I don't really know how it is, you know.

Q. Because you're a pretty hard hitter?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Yeah, I know, I know what you're trying to tell me. I get it. But...

Q. I'm not trying to tell you anything.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. I would love to play it, you know. Maybe I wouldn't be so, I don't know. It's coming stronger and stronger, and it's improving, you know. The tennis didn't have maybe nowhere to go, so they found out about this racquet. Maybe next time they gonna maybe make these speed balls which you not gonna see at all, so it's gonna be very fast.
No, but, I don't know. Somehow the thing goes faster and faster. I think at some stage they've gotta stop somehow.

Q. Make the balls bigger or the court slower?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Oh, well, I think maybe smaller racquets or something, or just keep the racquets this way. Plus, like Serena, she has racquet very close to her limit, I think, as I heard. I don't know. I think it's -- I mean, she will generate unbelievable speed of that.

Q. Right. You've had a coaching change or a slight one? You're with someone younger now. Who are you traveling with?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Stefan Ortega. It's the same guy I've been traveling with past year, and I've been -- same guy I've been traveling in the year, I think it was 2003. And I was playing doubles with Martina, then I stopped traveling with him, and I stop also playing doubles with Martina, so he would coach her. And I would stay at the Milious (phonetic) Academy for two years, traveling with different coaches, two, three guys. And then in last year, I decided to start working with Stefan.

Q. Strictly?

Q. How much time do you spend talking to Arantxa about tennis?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Not really much, not really. Like if I would -- I would finish the match, I would talk to her, you know. She would watch it. But she has so much other stuff to do and stuff. But I feel if I need anything, I can just ring her and talk about tennis.
But I think -- and I have very good coach, and it's so good. I trust him totally, and I think he has very good view of the game. And with Arantxa, I prefer to talk about different stuff.

Q. Who do you expect to be on the Fed Cup team, yourself, Maria, Petrova, maybe Chakvetadze?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Chakvetadze, I think.

Q. You think?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I think it would be Chakvetadze. She looks like higher far up than the girls in the ranking.

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