Svetlana Kuznetsova has denied “being back”. In her mind, she never left.
The dual grand slam champion wound back the clock with an almost flawless 6-0 6-2 shutout of Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig to claim her 16th title in the final of the Sydney International on Friday night.
She took the first set in a rapid-fire 24 minutes and lost a total of just seven points on her serve, then the world No.25 fired an even better shot at those who announced she had returned to the women’s elite.
“I don’t think I’ve been gone or I relax at some stage,” she said.
“I don’t think I left somewhere, or I’ve been lazy, or I didn’t work. I still was here, still doing the same tournaments. Just didn’t go my way.”
At 30 years of age, Russia’s Kuznetsova has heard it all.
She’s even been told to retire.
But having seen a 34-year-old Serena Williams take out three of the four grand slams in 2015, the former Wimbledon and US Open champion said there was only one thing that would force her to hang up the racquet.
“I started when I was 16 to play pro. I travelled before, since 14 I went away from home. That’s what tires myself a lot. I have to all the time be on the road,” she said.
“This is my struggle, not to play tennis or to practice. I love that.
“That’s what will take me out of tennis, enough of travelling… and of course the girls show that it’s possible to do great and to be top at this age.
“The doctor says after 30 is the best age for women in athletes, in sports.”
In winning Sydney Kuznetsova served up a reminder to the tour that she could be a threat at the Australian Open, seven years after winning her second slam at Roland Garros in 2009.
In defeating Puig, Kuznetsova ended a charmed run.
The world No.94 won seven straight matches – through qualifying and the main draw, shocking Australia No.1 Sam Stosur, en route to the final, only to save her worst for last.
She failed to get on the scoreboard until the third game of the second set, and only won one more game for the match, only just avoiding the same 6-0 6-0 embarrassment Dominika Cibulkova copped from Agnieszka Radwanska in 2013.
But Puig denied her final flameout poured cold water on a hot week.
“I still had fun out there tonight, which is my number one goal this year, really enjoying every single moment on court,” Puig said.
“I had an incredible week coming through qualifying, my first time here in Sydney and I made a final of my first premier tournament.
“Overall, very good week and very happy. I’m really not going to get disheartened about this final. She played unbelievable.”
The title win in Sydney was Kuznetsova’s first in 11 attempts, including a final loss to Justine Henin in 2008.