Interesting stuff from Pete Bodo on Sveta's rising from the ashes with a little help of the Jekyll and Hydes of tennis: Roger and Marat.
One of the people she said that to was her friend and confidant, Marat Safin. "I said, 'Marat,' I don't know, maybe I should not play. He said, 'Okay, are you crazy or what? You have unbelievable opportunities. You just have to play.'"
Kuznetsova says that was the worst period for her, and it lasted for most of last year. She really felt the urge to move back to Russia, to Moscow, a longing that panicked some of her acquaintances and advisers. "I had so many people telling me, you won't be able to play here (Moscow), you won't be able to train here, because it's too much information; it's too much destruction, too much night life, or whatever."
Kuznetsova lost in the first round at the Olympic Games in Beijing; given her deeply-felt and oft-expressed patriotism, it was a devastating blow. She lingered at the Olympics, and one day took a gaggle of Russian female basketball players to see the tennis. At the facility, they saw Roger Federer and appealed to Sveta to get Federer to pose for a picture with them.
Sveta rolled her eyes, just remembering the incident. "You know how I love Roger," she said, "and I never came to him myself to ask for a picture. But it's easier to do something like that for other people so I did go to him. And I was looking at him and he was looking at me and he said, 'What do you want?' "
When Sveta told him, he said, 'Sure, no problem,' and posed with the girls. He also had a 10-minute talk with Kuznetsova - the first conversation she'd ever had with the icon. She told him about the terrible time she was having making a decision about where to live, and she says he told her: "Look, it's up to you. You can only depend on yourself. You can control it. If you can live in Moscow and concentrate, do this. If you cannot. . . only you can judge, you know."
Kuznetsova's friendship with Marat introduces a strange element in this saga, and one that may seem not entirely fair to Dinara. But Kuznetsova sees no reason for Safina to feel threatened or uncomfortable about her closeness with Marat. "There are many, many more tournaments, and she (Dinara) works very hard, she will win it one day. But it's true, me and Marat, we're similar - we hang out a lot, we talk about serious stuff. We go to places - I don't even want to get into what kind of places. . .
"So maybe I am more like him than is Dinara, yet she looks unbelievable like him. She walks like him, her backhand is like Marat's, her hands. . . I don't think she has pressure because of him. She is No. 1 now and anyway I always say pressure is something that just you can put on yourself. So Marat and I, we still friends. He help me a lot last year, with agents and stuff. And he texted me after the match, 'Congratulations.'"
Sigh. I wonder what he texted to Dina. If anything at all. Speculative Sad Face.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Pete article if it didn't veer towards the uncomfortable:
But it was about her own downside that the new Roland Garros champion was most articulate when she sat before the world press, wearing a white sports jacket with some sort of sparkles embedded in the fabric, her streaked blonde hair still pulled back in that pony tail that may be the perfect symbol of her makeover. And that's a transformation that may be deep-reaching.
We don't like to put too much stock in appearances, but sometimes they tell us a great deal. And for long periods in the interim since Sveta won that first major in New York, she seemed oblivious to how she looked, to the point that she sometimes seemed disheveled, unprepared, unprofessional. This mattered because the carelessness and the lack of self-respect that it implied showed in her patchy, undisciplined game - and her results. And while the implications of all this may be discomfiting, it's undeniable that tennis players, especially top players, are generally very fastidious about their appearance and, if anything, overly conscious of style, grooming, and fashion. Their workplace, after all, is in the public eye.
This isn't the most comfortable issue for anyone, including Kuznetsova. When she was asked if it was true that she had no contract with Fila (whose garment she wears), she just replied, "No comment." How can you blame her? Wouldn't you feel a little hurt if you were, like Kuznetsova, a perennial Top 5 player, and nobody thought enough of your overall talent and appeal to offer you a contract
So Sveta took a shower, bought herself an Armani suit, put a little rouge on, and she won a Slam. I had no idea it was *that* easy. I guess the reason Dina lost is because she's been wearing the same ugly pink t-shirt everyday for the past year. If only Z knew that. That thing would have been burned a long time ago.
Also, Sveta doesn't have a sponsor? How'd I miss that one?