2017 Season Review: Svetlana Kuznetsova defies her age once more, ends the year inside the Top 15

Svetlana Kuznetsova managed to back up her results from 2016, and although she did not clinch a title nor did she qualify for the WTA Finals once again, the Russian has sealed a spot in the year-end top 15.

2017 Season Review: Svetlana Kuznetsova defies her age once more, ends the year inside the Top 15
Svetlana Kuznetsova will look to make a return to the top 10 next year | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

Svetlana Kuznetsova had a fairly consistent season, securing the 12th place in the WTA year-end rankings as the Russian was able to back up her results after a career resurgence earlier in 2016. Although Kuznetsova endured through the year without claiming any silverware, the Russian could also blame her left wrist injury which forced her to miss out the majority of the action during the Asian Swing.

Win-loss record

Kuznetsova owns a fair 32-17 win-loss record this year, and her win percentage stands at a respectable amount of 65 percent. Her season was highlighted by an impressive seven quarterfinals, grabbing two top-10 wins along the way. However, she also fell to players of a lower ranking on 14 different occasions, but that could also be credited to the fact that she was a top-10 player for the whole year until the last week of the regular season.

Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the Brisbane International | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the Brisbane International | Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

The average ranking of opponents she lost to stands at an impressive 31.8, and without her last three losses (when she was affected by her wrist injury), it will be furthermore excellent as the average would be just at a mere 20.9. She also triumphed in 32 matches with her opponents having an average rank of 77.

Best Performances

To be frank, Kuznetsova’s start of the year was lackluster as she failed to play her best tennis, allowing her to record only two quarterfinal appearances in Brisbane and St. Petersburg respectively.

She had to wait until March for her first impressive campaign as the Russian unexpectedly stormed to the final at the BNP Paribas Open. Starting off the tournament with a tricky win over Johanna Larsson, Kuznetsova got past veteran Roberta Vinci in three sets before blowing Caroline Garcia off the court in just over an hour.

Svetlana Kuznetsova celebrates winning a point at the Sydney International | Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images AsiaPac
Svetlana Kuznetsova celebrates winning a point at the Sydney International | Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images AsiaPac

Nonetheless, that was not her most straightforward win of the fortnight. Kuznetsova exacted revenge over compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, triumphing 6-3, 6-2 in just an hour and three minutes. The Russian then claimed her best win of the year in terms of rankings, ousting then-world number three Karolina Pliskova, taking the win in two tiebreak sets. However, her impressive run came to a sudden halt after Elena Vesnina played the match of her life, coming from a break down in the final set to triumph after more than three hours.

Kuznetsova’s best clay court tournament this year was the Mutua Madrid Open, where she reached the semifinals. Although clay was her most preferred surface, the Russian did not perform well on it in 2017. Her determination and willpower got her through a tough second-round match against Alison Riske, saving two match points for her semifinal run to be possible. However, she looked way off during the semifinals, falling to then-doubles partner Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets.

Svetlana Kuznetsova applauds the crowd at the Australian Open | Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images AsiaPac
Svetlana Kuznetsova applauds the crowd at the Australian Open | Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images AsiaPac

Surprisingly, Kuznetsova put in an excellent performance throughout the grass-court season. She exacted revenge over Mladenovic with a terrific three-set win in Eastbourne, where she fell to Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals despite owning a 4-1 lead in the final set. Entering the Wimbledon Championships as the seventh seed, the Russian had a tricky draw but was still able to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. Kuznetsova eased to the last eight without losing a set, defeating quality players like Ekaterina Makarova and Agnieszka Radwanska. There, she fell to the eventual champion Garbine Muguruza 3-6, 4-6. After the grass-court season, Kuznetsova’s season has been dire.

Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the BNP Paribas Open | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the BNP Paribas Open | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America

Low Points

Kuznetsova failed to take her opportunities on multiple occasions this year, especially when being given favorable draws. Just like at the Australian Open, the Russian fell to Pavlyuchenkova and missed out on a chance to progress deep into the draw. The Russian also fell to Pavlyuchenkova in Sydney. Furthermore, she failed to utilize her good draw to claim the title in her home country, falling in the quarterfinals of the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy to Yulia Putintseva. Other disappointing exits include a third-round loss to Daria Gavrilova at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, where she was tipped to claim the silverware.

Although Kuznetsova managed to reach the second week in the Grand Slams thrice this year, her most disappointing tournament this year was possibly the French Open. The Russian was the huge favorite coming into Roland Garros and looked on course for her third Major title as she entered the second week with three consecutive three-set wins. The lengthy matches which all went over two hours certainly proved to have taken a toll on Kuznetsova, who looked flat against Caroline Wozniacki, ultimately losing in three sets.

Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the French Open | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the French Open | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Everything went wrong after Wimbledon, as she had a taste of an opening-round exit for the first time this year at the Rogers Cup, falling short to youngster Catherine Bellis. Kuznetsova finally regained her composure at the Western and Southern Open but failed to take her chances against Garbine Muguruza, falling in three tight sets eventually.

Kuznetsova then sustained the left wrist injury at the US Open, where she had the perfect chance to gain some ranking points to make a push and qualify for the WTA Finals. The injury ruined all her chances as it prevented her from using her normal two-handed backhand, and thus forced her to slice all the shots on her backhand with occasional topspin shots coming off her one-handed backhand. The problematic left wrist also forced her to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup and the WTA Elite Trophy.

Season Grade: B-

Although Kuznetsova still managed to end the year as the world number 12, the most disappointing fact is that she failed to capitalize on all her chances and did not clinch a single title. Nonetheless, consistent performances should be the goal and the Russian achieved that with seven quarterfinal appearances. With generally no points to defend throughout the Asian Swing, a return to the top-10 is highly possible for the veteran.

Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the US Open, where she injured her left wrist | Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images North America
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the US Open, where she injured her left wrist | Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images North America