x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Kuznetsova's conundrum

The inconsistent world No 3 is struggling to take the next step forward.

Svetlana Kuznetsova is about to complete her first decade as a tennis professional. The Russian was still in her teens when she established herself on the world stage by winning the 2004 US Open. Earlier this year, she added a second grand slam title by overwhelming her compatriot Dinara Safina in a one-sided French Open final.

Despite those two major honours and 10 other victories, Kuznetsova, 24, still travels the world as supporting cast to the leading ladies and continues to struggle to take that extra step to genuine stardom. The WTA championships provide an annual stage for the top eight players in the world to put their case forward as the best. Kuznetsova has qualified for this elite gathering five times but on each occasion has been sent packing without ceremony.

She has managed only two victories in 14 matches against her main rivals. She extended her losing sequence to eight when she lost to the defending champion Venus Williams. On her alarming failure rate in the prestigious event, Kuznetsova said: "I have my reasons but I really don't want to talk about it. "I saved my season by winning the French Open and Beijing but the other tournaments were not so good."

Kuznetsova had arrived in Doha insisting that she felt better physically and mentally than she had felt at previous end-of-season play-offs. She spoke optimistically of emulating Safina and claim the world No 1 ranking. Once as high as second in the rankings, and now still No 3, Kuznetsova looked back to defeats earlier in the year to the eventual Australian Open champion, Serena Williams, and the US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki.

"Just two, maybe three, balls going the other way in those matches and you never know where I would be now," she said. "I feel I have learned my lesson from those experiences. "I just have to find greater consistency in those big matches because I feel I have everything else to get to the top of the rankings. I tend not to think about the No 1 position. If it's going to happen for me then it will one day."