Kuznetsova advances through dramatic day in St. Petersburg

Kuznetsova advances through dramatic day in St. Petersburg

Former world No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova took the court after countrywomen Anastasia Gasanova and Vera Zvonareva played three-hour thrillers, making quicker work of Chinese qualifier Wang Xinyu to reach her first WTA quarterfinal in 12 months.

No.4 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova secured her first WTA quarterfinal in 12 months at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Wednesday, easing past Wang Xinyu, 6-1, 7-5.

Kuznetsova followed a pair of titanic three-setters on Sibur Arena and made up for lost time in fairly dominant fashion, holding off a late challenge from the Chinese qualifier to advance in 78 minutes.

The former world No. 2 was undeniably derailed by the tour’s COVID-19 lockdown, and only began showing signs of her pre-pandemic form at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she stunned top seed Elina Svitolina in three sets.

After a first-round bye, the 35-year-old emerged on court after countrywoman Vera Zvonareva won a three hour, ten minute thriller—the longest in tournament history—to upset No. 3 seed Fiona Ferro. Kuznetsova promptly kept that Old Guard momentum going against the 19-year-old Wang, who won a pair of Grand Slam junior doubles titles in 2018.

Wang was aiming for her first WTA quarterfinal. (AP Images)

The teenager acquitted herself better as the match wore on, rallying from a set and 3-0—converting her fourth break point of a long fifth game—and broke Kuznetsova again as she served for the match.

Experience ultimately favored the two-time Grand Slam champion, outrallying Wang to draw a final forehand unforced error and edge over the finish line.

Kuznetsova closed the high-quality match with solid statistics, striking 12 winners to 11 unforced errors; while Wang decided fare more points with 25 winners and 23 errors of her own, the No. 4 seed proved more clutch on key points, converting six of nine break point opportunities.

Her quarterfinal opposition was decided at the end of an already-long day in St. Petersburg, as 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko bowed out to Romanian qualifier Jacqueline Cristian, 6-3, 7-6(9). Cristian had a match point on then-reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin last year in Lyon, and withstood a late-night second set to survive the big-hitting Latvian and reach her first career WTA quarterfinal.

Gasanova, Zvonareva Make Event History with Thrillers

The day began with Russian qualifier Anastasia Gasanova pulling out a dramatic 6-2, 6-7 (6), 7-5 win against Ukraine’s Katarina Zavatska in three hours and four minutes—the longest match in the tournament’s history before Zvonareva took the court.

Gasanova needed three hours and four minutes to defeat Katarina Zavatska. (AP Images)

Gasanova stole headlines earlier in the season when she scored the biggest win of her young career over former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open. This week, Gasanova ousted a resurgent Ana Konjuh to reach the main draw, and will guarantee another Russian quarterfinalist when she takes on No. 5 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Thursday.

Zvonareva was up next, and played another thriller that beat Gasanova’s record by six minutes. Shrugging off missed opportunities to serve out the first and second sets, the two-time Grand Slam runner-up nonetheless leveled the contest with Ferro and played a dominant tie-break to reach her first WTA quarterfinal since 2019 at this very tournament.

"It was definitely a tough match," Zvonareva said. "We were both fighting for every point, trying to hang in there. I think I was able to play some good tennis when it matters. I grew up playing indoors, so for me, it's a quicker transition compared to playing an outdoor tournament after being indoors. I'm quite familiar with the tournament; I've played here many times, and the courts suit my game."

A fellow former world No. 2, Zvonareva gave birth to daughter Evelyn in 2016, and is playing doubles with another tour mom Elena Vesnina, who welcomed daughter Elizaveta in 2018 and played her first tournament since then two weeks ago in Doha.