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INTERVIEWS

March 15, 2007

S. KUZNETSOVA/N. Vaidisova

4-6, 6-3, 6-4

An interview with:

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Svetlana, please.

Q. What did you think of the quality of that match? I thought it was extremely high, but maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I think the quality was very high, and to win this match I had to put something on it. I couldn't just perform there, you know, and just defend, you know. Because, I mean, usually I hit the ball and I'm the one who dictating, but today she doing that.
She has extremely good strokes. She serves very well, and I had -- I was a bit slow in the first set. I was maybe a bit tense, you know, and I wasn't getting into the ball as much as I would love to and would have to win this set.
So I didn't serve well enough, and then I got my coach out there, so he helped me out. Then I thought Nicole was serving very well, and I had just few chances to break her, and I made almost all of them. Maybe there is a couple to make it perfect.
But, hey, she played a good match and it was very tough out there. And I think I was very -- it was very important to hold my serve in the third set.

Q. You only won three of ten breakpoints, so you didn't break her every time, but you won, which is a big thing. In the one game toward the end of the match, you had three match points that escaped you and you lost that game. When that happens, Svetlana, is it difficult not to feel, well, maybe this is not going to be my day?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No, not at all. I didn't even one thought like this during the match, because the ball -- she serve extremely well these points, like it's only three of 10, as you say, but, I mean, if she serves ace, I cannot get upset, you know. Because, I mean, she's player, I'm player, we're playing here. I have to accept her winners.
And then I had the problem on my toe, my nail was pinching me so much, and I kind of gave myself credit for suffering, and then I just took it out at the change over, which was very painful. But I didn't want to call trainer. I thought I better not stop the match, so -- and then I start moving -- I mean, I was moving good, but it was hurting me a little bit.
But then in my serve, I was already fine with this. So I just had to keep serving the way I did. Just I put myself motivation because, look, I serve, she get it. She deserve. Now I'm going to put myself out there and serve as I've been serving in the whole set.

Q. Are you saying you had to have a toenail removed?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No, not full of it, but -- how you explain?
THE MODERATOR: Just a piece that was hanging off.

Q. I got it. That nail was on what foot?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Right one.

Q. Was that your big toe?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Yeah. Like I would feel it in my shoe, but I start to thinking what could it be. But I remember before the match, I forgot to cut it really well it was a bit pinching up, and I guess because of all the moving and sliding, it just start going up and I broke it, and, you know, during this game, and it was pinching me some points. It was extremely hard.
But still I asked for scissors of chair umpire, but then I realize I just take it out by my hands, and I just did it.

Q. You've played her a couple times before. Is this the best that you've ever seen her?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, both of the times was extremely hard. I guess here and French Open was -- I would say pretty close. Because I was in French Open, 5-2 up -- 5-2 down in the third set, I think it was, or set and 5-2. And on her serve, like, 15-Love or something like that, so it was extremely hard.

Q. This is the first time you've played her when it wasn't in a Grand Slam tournament. Does that kind of change the atmosphere a little bit, Svetlana?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Not at all. Counting the tournament, what it is, and which moment, we just the higher seed which left in the tournament. I know she's very tough, but then I have good opportunity, you know. I have good opportunity for my next match. So it makes me a little bit -- it's not harder. Grand Slam is also extremely tough. So I would equal both.

Q. Do you feel mentally stronger than she does at the end of a match?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I don't know. I just -- I just promised myself going out there today that I gonna stay tough every ball. Like I couldn't put -- have put my hands down still in the first set, because, like, she been just winning me winners. I'm not used to get winners to myself 'cause usually I do winners. So I do unforced errors. But I said, you know, she could be unpredictable some moments, so I know I have to play every point. So that's what I did, which I'm very happy of.

Q. About this time last year, you were talking about the fact that you had spoken to yourself and said, "I've got to change things. I've got to start producing the results," and you seem to have had a fresher outlook with your tennis. You went onto win Miami. Do you think, as you look back over these last 12 months, you've got to a place where you want to be or you should have been further ahead?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I mean, if I would just think so about 12 months, if you would ask me, like, if I regret something, I'm not, because I think I'm still doing my best every day. And, of course, sometimes you're not very happy about the result. Of course, you think, yeah, it could be better to do perfect things. But at this, accept it.
I know that I cannot get better just in 12 months. That it's work of time, of maybe years, you know. Because to improve some things, it takes long time, not just day or week or month.
So I think I'm very patient to myself. It could have been better, but it could have been much worse. So let's be realistic. I'm happy with where I am and I think I have very good opportunity to move further.

Q. Then how would you explain Sharapova winning two grand slams and getting to No. 1 at such a young age, 'cause it didn't take her quite as long?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, everybody has different game. I mean Amelie, she's No. 1 when she's older age and everybody has different moments. You cannot just go -- yeah, Nadal also, but Roger, he is legend and he got there later than Nadal. It's just different people.

Q. But you also -- you won a Grand Slam title when you were young, too. And Sharapova said maybe when she won her first, she wasn't quite ready.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Um.

Q. It just sort of happened to her. Do you feel that way also?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Yeah, I always said I was not ready to win my first Grand Slam. It was a bit too much for me then, and then next year for me, it was really hard. I couldn't really -- couldn't really to get the things the right way.

Q. What's the easiest thing to work on when you're trying to improve your game and what's the hardest?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I guess the easiest one is the strokes, the tennis strokes, whatever it is, 'cause it's just matter of going out and hit the balls. And the toughest one is about you, as a person, you as a player, and you just setting out there in state of mentally. I think this is very hard, always be positive.

Q. Is it about confidence? Is it about dealing with the grind of the tour? What's the hardest part of the mental side?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: It's everything. It's a little bit because, I mean, we are at very young age. We travel almost on our own. Sometimes we see parents, sometimes we don't. It's hard to be out there every week and always perform at your best. And. Of course, you have lots of expectations, and every time and everywhere people expect from you, and you have to perform there well.
And in the end, you just get -- some people, they get very vulnerable, how you say, vulnerable. And some people, they get stronger, you know. I think this is the toughest part.

Q. So what are your expectations for this year, now, three months into the year? What are your expectations?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, I'm seeing myself doing better. I'm seeing myself improving the serve, coming more to the net - not today because I didn't have my chances. But, yeah, just improving my game, working on it. And I believe that doing this, I can improve as player, and my ranking will go higher with it.

Q. I don't know if you talked about this before, what's lacking in Vaidisova's game to go from maybe a top 10 player to a top 5 player?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I mean, I think it's not the strokes. Think -- well, it just maybe sometimes not over-hit the ball, because she chooses sometimes to extreme shots to hit. Like at game 5-3, she hit down-the-lines, and, like, she wouldn't -- the one she made, it's like never happens like this. It's just maybe one out of ten. And just be a bit stable and just have this equality of the game. Because she goes for to match sometimes and she plays sometimes not very well.

Q. Talk about the next round against either Tatiana or Bammer.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: You know, it's semifinals, so the players who gets there is -- it's already have confidence, winning matches, and definitely gonna be tough. And I played them both. I played Bammer in Berlin last year, and I don't remember if I won the two sets or three sets. But she plays well. She's very strong. She had a baby already. She's a mom. But I think she's very fit.
And then Tatiana, I played her in New Haven before the U.S. Open. She can also be very dangerous, and she hits the ball pretty hard and flat.

Q. Could you imagine being a mother and traveling with a baby and playing at the level you play at?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Not at my age, though. I can imagine myself being a mother, but I think just too early. I'm not ready. I was not ready at 18 or 17 to win the Grand Slam. I'm not ready to have baby now.
So, you know, it's just hard. I mean, you know, it just -- you hit the age where you performing the best at tennis and you hit the age that you perform best at having a family.
For me, it would be hard because I would love to give all of me to my daughter or my son and then also to the tennis. So it's pretty hard.

Q. It makes it sort of amazing what Bammer is doing. She's only 25, traveling with a 5-year-old, you know, tournament to tournament. Now she's gotten into the top 35, her best ranking ever, with a baby.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: That's good. What's her ranking without the baby?

Q. I think she was below 140. When she started to come back after she had the child she was out of the top 100?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I understand, but before.

Q. Her best ranking before, I don't think she was ever top 50?
THE MODERATOR: Always outside, like, the top 100.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I never knew her anyway. I was too young. But, I mean, I have huge respect for her because she doing something that I didn't see many people do. She has her husband to help her out. And if she feels happy like this, it's great. But I guess it's also -- I mean, I would not -- it's hard to say, you know. It's her kid. She would know what's better. But for kid, I guess it's very hard to travel every week.
But I saw her the other day. She's extremely nice. I even think her name is Tina, and, yeah, I mean it's great if she can do this. I really respect her for that.

Q. You wouldn't travel if you had a child? You wouldn't play tennis if you had a child?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No. I would play tennis, but I would give it to my mom, the child. So she'll take care of it and...

Q. It's not a dog, Svetlana.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Or grandparents. You know, it's funny now. I start thinking I had the same thing when my mom had me. She still won world champion after she had me. She won like six of them in cycling. So then I was with my grandparents, and they were taking very good care of me. And my mom was competing and my dad was coaching her. So, yeah, I was very happy with my grandparents.

Q. Did your mother ever bring you to the races? Do you remember ever going?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Not hers. Not hers. I would remember watching my brother cycling and stuff. And I was turning like 7, I would never travel with him, maybe, like, some week. But I remember coming often to my dad's practice, and I was even with his team. I always was in this sport and sport --

Q. Environment?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: People -- sport environment, yeah.

Q. Is it true you were born on the back seat of a bike?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No, on forward wheel.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.

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