After managing a late-season surge at the end of 2016, Svetlana Kuznetsova had many high expectations for this year especially after returning to the Top 10 in the rankings and reaching the semifinals of the WTA Finals last year, falling to eventual champion Dominika Cibulkova. However, Kuznetsova is still unable to win a title this year, which is considered very disappointing for a Top 10 player. Partnering Kristina Mladenovic, Kuznetsova and the Frenchwoman founded a new solid pairing as they managed to rattle off some great wins in their time together. Nevertheless, the Russian was still able to produce some respectable results on the singles court.
Kuznetsova currently owns a 29-12 win-loss record entering the second half of the season, with two of them coming against fellow Top 10 players. This is currently the best win-loss record for the Russian since her impressive 2009 season when she won her second Grand Slam title at the French Open. However, a worrying statistic shows Kuznetsova winning only two matches in 11 tries after losing the first set, preventing her from achieving further success.
The highlight of Kuznetsova’s 2017 is definitely reaching the final at the BNP Paribas Open, defeating quality opponents who had an average rank of 27, with some notable names like soon-to-be number one player Karolina Pliskova also being one of her victims during the fortnight. Her best-performing clay court tournament this year was the Mutua Madrid Open, where the Russian saved a match point along the way to reach the semifinals, which was surprisingly her best result on clay, her most preferred surface.
Interestingly, Kuznetsova excelled on grass and she managed to reach the quarterfinals in both of her grass court tournaments in Eastbourne and at the Wimbledon Championships. Defeating formidable opponents like Kristina Mladenovic, triumphing in three-sets to get her first win over the Frenchwoman, and triumphing over Agnieszka Radwanska to reach her first quarterfinal at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, the Russian managed to produce some good results on her least preferred surface.
Failure to close out leads has always been a problem for Kuznetsova, which continues to plague her even in 2017.
Losing a 4-1 lead and two set points in the opening set against Garbine Muguruza at the Brisbane International, the Russian proceeded to fall in straight sets, being unable to capitalize on her huge leads. Kuznetsova wasted yet another huge lead when she failed to close out a 5-3 in the final set against Yulia Putintseva at the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy, falling to an inspired opponent in the Kazakh.
The most heartbreaking loss for the Russian in 2017 definitely came at the BNP Paribas Open, where she could have won her biggest title since 2009 had she not lost a 7-6 4-2 lead against good friend Elena Vesnina in the final. Furthermore, Kuznetsova earned yet another lead in the final set but failed to deal well with the pressure as she eventually fell 4-6 in the final set. At the Eastbourne International, Kuznetsova could have reached just the second grass court final of her career had she converted a 4-1 lead in the final set against the then-world number three Karolina Pliskova, who would have gone on to be the top-ranked player three weeks later.
Wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Karolina Pliskova would undoubtedly be her most impressive victories of her season thus far. Having lost to her compatriot twice Down Under, Kuznetsova was determined not to suffer a third straight loss to the same opponent as she amazingly defeated Pavlyuchenkova at the BNP Paribas Open, triumphing in straight sets. In the next round of the same tournament, Kuznetsova put in a solid performance to outlast the hard-hitting Czech in two tiebreak sets, converting her chances well.
A spirited performance against Alison Riske in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open saw the Russian come from a set and a break down to prevail in three tough sets, saving a match point in the process.
Her incredible amount of stamina was perfectly reflected in her matches at the French Open, where she was part of four consecutive two-hour matches. Kuznetsova was also involved in the longest match of the women’s tournament, triumphing against Zhang Shuai in a marathon 3 hours and 9 minutes match.
Kuznetsova put in what could be her poorest performance of the year against Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth round of the Australian Open, missing the golden opportunity to capitalize on a favorable draw. She looked out-of-sorts in her straight-sets defeat, falling after just a mere 68 minutes of play.
On her best surface, Kuznetsova was unable to excel as she fell to shock defeats against Laura Siegemund and Kristina Mladenovic in Stuttgart and Madrid respectively, and both players went on to reach the finals with the German wild card being the eventual winner in her home tournament. A huge favorite for the title, pressure overwhelmed the Russian after she was outclassed by a firing Caroline Wozniacki in three tough sets.
Midseason Grade: B-
Starting the year as the ninth-ranked player, Kuznetsova’s consistent results allowed her to solidify her ranking in the Top 10 and often brought her close to a return into the Top 5 for the first time since 2009. However, pressure always gets to her when it mattered as Kuznetsova failed to take advantage of favorable draws at many different tournaments, and now finds herself in the eighth position in the rankings with much more points to defend through the rest of the year. She has to start producing more impressive results if she were to have a chance to defend her semifinal points at the WTA Finals, considering her position in the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard as she is currently ranked ninth and is in huge danger of missing out on a qualifying spot.