Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis: She just wants a little respect

Svetlana Kuznetsova makes her points with power. Photo / AP
Svetlana Kuznetsova makes her points with power. Photo / AP

Two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova has accused the new generation of tennis players of lacking respect for their older rivals.

It's a surprising admission - in a world where a lot of tennis players offer stock-standard answers - but Kuznetsova has never been afraid to speak her mind.

The Russian, fourth seed at this week's ASB Classic, is about to begin her 16th year on the WTA Tour.

She has seen it all - from the highs of grand slam triumphs and Federation Cup victories to the lows of injuries and spells of errant form.

But when asked what had changed on tour since she turned professional in 2000, the world No25 identified a sea change in the attitude of young players.

"When I was younger and I saw [players such as] Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Martina Hingis, I really looked up to then," said Kuznetsova.

"You had different respect. Now players don't care who you are, whether it is Serena Williams or someone else. They think they are already stars."

When asked if it was just a symptom of Generation Y, Kuznetsova said "maybe ... I don't know".

The same point was also made - in a slightly different way - by Rafael Nadal at the 2015 Australian Open, when he lamented the rise of a new generation whose games were based solely around power, and who lacked the ability to think their way through points.

Kuznetsova has certainly earned the right to respect. She won the 2004 US Open and the 2009 French Open and made two other grand slam finals, both times losing to Justine Henin at her peak. Kuznetsova has reached the last eight at grand slams 13 times, has 15 WTA singles titles and was a fixture in the top 10 between 2004 and 2009.

Her best days may be behind her but Kuznetsova is still a considerable force. The 30-year-old took another title (Moscow) last year, but it was her run to the final in Madrid that really caught the eye: across the week in the Spanish capital she beat Garbine Muguruza, Sam Stosur, world No9 Lucie Safarova and Maria Sharapova, and was only stopped by Petra Kvitova in the final.

"Now I don't have so much expectation I just play," said Kuznetsova. "When I was younger I did have expectation, but now I am just trying to enjoy it and improve my game."

Kuznetsova finished her year at the International Premier Tennis League in Asia, a "crazy experience".

"It's nice to try something new at this point in my career but it was really distracting with all of the new rules there, the people yelling, the music between points.

"You have to toss the ball once, you have only 20 seconds [to serve], deuce is one point and there is a tiebreaker at 5-5. It messes up your head a little because you were used to playing one set of rules for 20 years of your life and now you change it."

Kuznetsova has had mixed results in Auckland. The past two years she has exited first round and, in 2011, as third seed, she was upset by world No72 Peng Shuai in the second round.

Her best performance was in 2012, when she reached the semi-finals.

"I always come here," said Kuznetsova. "I really enjoy the atmosphere and the crowd is great.

"I've been coming here a lot but I never win many rounds here, so that's my main goal this time."

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 23 Jan 2017 18:15:07 Processing Time: 459ms