KEY BISCAYNE, Fla.—Entering Monday, the last time Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Serena Williams was in the quarterfinals of the 2009 French Open, which she went on to win for her second Grand Slam title.

The last time Williams had beaten Kuznetsova was here, last year, in two routine sets. Going into their fourth-round match on Monday, Williams led their head to head 8-2 and was riding a 20-match winning streak in Key Biscayne.

None of that mattered on this day as Kuznetsova took out the defending champion, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-2.


“It’s obviously disappointing,” Williams said. “But I’ve won here a lot, so it’s OK.”

Williams has definitely won in Miami a lot. She was campaigning for her ninth Miami title, and her fourth in a row. The last time she lost a match here was in 2012, and the only time she lost before the quarterfinals was 16 years ago.

Yet not all seemed merry for the 34-year-old from the very start of what she calls her home tournament.

She overcame a stiff challenge from Christina McHale in her opening round. After the match, less than four minutes into her press conference, a listless Williams abruptly said, “I really just don't want to be here. So if we can wrap this up, that would be great.”

In the later parts of Monday’s match, it looked like she didn’t want to be on court, either.

Still, the 21-time Grand Slam champion started off strong, going up 3-0 before Kuznetsova’s serve got her on the board. Williams was the obvious favorite, but Kuznetsova is a two-time Grand Slam champion and a former world No. 3. She also won this very tournament back in 2006.

It’s still somewhat easy to write the Russian off—it’s been years since she’s been inside the Top 20. But the 30-year-old is now at No. 19, and she won her 16th WTA title in Sydney this year, where she notched a big win over Simona Halep.

Instead of being rattled by Williams’ forceful play at the start of the match, Kuznetsova dug in for the long haul and stuck around long enough to not lose serve the entire set.

“I knew I had to go aggressive [on the serve],” Kuznetsova said. “If I would give some easy second serves I would get my a-- kicked out there.”


Kuznetsova shows fight, grit in come-from-behind win over Serena

Kuznetsova shows fight, grit in come-from-behind win over Serena

It was in the tiebreaker that Williams ramped up her own formidable serve with two aces, and then a forehand return winner sealed the set.

From the start of the second set, however, the Williams wheels began to fall of the train, literally, as her movement dropped off dramatically.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to criticize my movement right now,” Williams said. “I did the best that I could.”

To her credit, the Palm Beach resident didn’t blame the heat whatsoever (which crept near the 90s).

What began as a match of big serves and even bigger forehands turned into one of unforced errors, almost all of which came from Williams’ racquet.

“I mean, going into today’s match I knew she is not on top of her game, but neither was I,” Kuznetsova said. “I don’t feel good. I knew I was hang[ing] in there and I will fight for each ball … She goes for her shots, and I have to move her as [much as] I can and make her do more unforced errors.

“This is my goal, how I have to win, because I'm not going to overhit her or do more winners than Serena, or do more aces. This is not my game.”


Williams finished with 55 unforced errors (though she did hit 43 winners). Kuznetsova took the second set easily, winning in just over 30 minutes. And the third was much of the same, with some uncharacteristically low-quality tennis from Williams.

“I can’t win every match,” Williams said. “The players come out and play me like they’ve never played before in their lives.”

On Monday, Kuznetsova played smart, consistent tennis, but it was not the best of her life by any means. Still, the accomplishment deserves some accolades.

“I have so many people saying congratulations, I feel like I won the title already,” Kuznetsova said. “Not real. Now, these days, the tennis is extremely tough and each opponent is really difficult to play. I'm just focusing for tomorrow's match…”

In the quarterfinals, Kuznetsova will play Ekaterina Makarova, who swept past Elina Svitolina, 6-1, 6-4.