Svetlana Kuznetsova Wears the Sky, Reminds Us Why We Need Her

There’s “marching to the beat of your own drum” and then there’s “stomping through the drum, throwing it out the window and laughing at anyone who ever tries to pick it up.” The latter more accurately describes Svetlana Kuznetsova.

After being off the tour for most of last year with an injury, the two-time Grand Slam champion is back on a semi-weekly basis, and she’s made the quarterfinals of both majors this year.

Oh, and she is making an impression.

The truth is that the sky pattern on the clothes is fitting for the Russian–the sky is the limit for her, but she keeps that limit close to her. It’s her own volatility, inconsistencies, and fitness that keeps her from winning more Grand Slam titles and grabbing the No. 1 ranking.

And yet, it’s that same wildcard nature that makes her tennis so special, so unpredictable, so deadly when it’s on.

She’s weaved herself in and out of the WTA narrative over the past decade at her own whim. Well, actually, weaved is probably not the own world. Bulldozed in and out. High-dived in and free-falled out. She’s single-handedly ripped to shreds with an exacto knife and then duct-taped them back together just for fun.

She makes us all want to pull our hair out, but she also keeps us watching.

Because on days like today when the conclusion is foregone, when the ending seems inevitable, she reminds us that it’s not. She reminds us that there are players like her who can get under the skin of Serena Williams. She reminds us that there’s not just one right or one wrong way to do things. Occasionally the Sveta way works too.

She lost today. She was not 100% today. She did some stupid stuff today. But she also made me really and truly appreciate her today.

Perhaps Sveta will never reach the heights that we on our couches think she should. She might never win another big title or get her ranking to the top or make us put the vodka down. But perhaps she’s not supposed to.

Maybe everyone’s purpose isn’t greatness. Maybe some are around to remind us that greatness isn’t a foregone conclusion. Maybe it’s just nice to remember that greatness is a possibility.

No matter what, things are just more interesting when Sveta is around.

Lindsay is an author, a filmmaker, a long-winded blogger, and a huge tennis fan.

3 Responses

  1. Patrick of La Verne
    Patrick of La Verne June 5, 2013 at 2:15 am |

    Great article, Lindsay.

    Sveta made La Serenissima sveat a little today. Wonderful match.

  2. skip1515
    skip1515 June 5, 2013 at 7:46 am |

    Her all-round athleticism makes most of the players look like highly skilled automatons. The only downside to her being a flake (however lovable/enjoyable) is that she won’t inspire as many similarly athletic girls to take up tennis as she would if she were winning more, and was therefore more visible. That’s not her job, I know, but it’d be a nice consequence.

    On the other hand, it’d be a mistake to discount the influence Serena has by not yielding to Kuznetsova’s challenge.

  3. S
    S June 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm |

    I found this comparison from a tennis coach/ redditor: “She’s better around the net overall than Serena is, and she has a better slice backhand. Her backhand is cleaner, she has better footwork, and some aspects of her forehand are nicer (but not all). The serve is a close call – they each do some things well with the serve that I like.

    Her game overall is technically a little superior to Serena’s. Not really obviously so – Serena has a very nice all around game, and to most observers they wouldn’t see the difference. In truth, most people would see Serena as the stronger player because of her results. But if we separate out technical tennis ability from ability to compete and win matches, Svetlana is the better player.”

    What say you?

    She doesn’t have Serena’s will-to-win in big-game situations, or Serena’s self belief. When the technical margins are very small (and they are) those are two very, very big difference makers.

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