If you like your tennis players to get straight to the point, you’re probably going to like Veronika Kudermetova.
After the 23-year-old Russian won her first title on Sunday, with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Danka Kovinic in the Volvo Car Open final, Tennis Channel’s Steve Weissman asked her what the journey had been like over the last five years, as she emerged from the ITF Circuit and slowly established herself on the WTA Tour.
“It’s a long way,” Kudermetova said, “lots of ups and downs, and now I am here with the trophy and it’s amazing, yeah.”
What else needs to be said, right?
If you’re Kudermetova, you’re probably happy to forget all about the past and focus on the future, because after this week it suddenly looks a lot brighter. She won her first WTA title, and she did at an historically significant, 500-level event that included Ash Barty, Sofia Kenin, Garbiñe Muguruza, and Petra Kvitova, among other other Top 20 mainstays. Kudermetova rolled through the draw without dropping a set, or even being pushed past 6-4. On Monday, she’ll make her debut in the Top 30.
“I’m very happy that I played my game, and took everything in my hand,” Kudermetova said.
The Volvo Car Open has had a predictive quality in recent years; success on the relatively small stage in Charleston in the spring can lead to bigger successes on bigger stages soon after. Angelique Kerber won the title here in 2015, and a year later won two majors and rose to No. 1. Sloane Stephen won in Charleston in 2016, and went on to win the US Open 16 months later. Jelena Ostapenko and Daria Kasatkina reached the Volvo final in 2017; that summer Ostapenko won the French Open and Kasatkina make the quarters in Paris and at Wimbledon.
Could Kudermetova’s win signal a similar breakthrough for her? When she was asked about the possibility of a deep run at Roland Garros, she smiled, but didn’t act as if was out of the realm of possibility. And her win this week didn’t come entirely out of nowhere, either. She started the season by upsetting Elina Svitolina on her way to the final in Abu Dhabi.
More impressive, perhaps, is the fact that Kudermetova currently has more aces in 2021 than anyone on tour. Her serve bailed her out of trouble on a number of occasions against Kovinic.
“I always improve my serve,” Kudermetova said, with typically upbeat terseness.
Kudermetova is a lean 5’9,” and what she lacks in muscle from the baseline she makes up for with good all-court instincts; she can play the net on one point, and draw her opponent up there on the next. Throughout this season, she has played with the quietly stubborn competitiveness of someone who believes she can compete with, and beat, higher-ranked opponents. Bringing on Vladimir Platenik, former coach of Kasatkina and Dominika Cibulkova, as part of her team should help her translate that desire into results.
Whether Kudermetova is destined for Grand Slam greatness anytime soon remains to be seen, but there’s no question that the opportunity is there in this most unpredictable of tennis campaigns. Already in 2021 we’ve seen title runs from Barty, Muguruza, Kasatkina, Kvitova, Aryna Sabalenka, Elise Mertens, Naomi Osaka, Iga Swiatek, Clara Tauson, Sara Sorribes Tormo, and Leylah Fernandez.
The pool of talent is deep on the WTA side right now, and Kudermetova just made it a little deeper. After her win, she was told, to her surprise, that a real live Volvo came with her win. Once she made sure she could actually take it with her, she said, without any hesitation, that she would “give it to my parents,” because of all the sacrifices they had made for her career.
If you like your tennis players to get straight to the point, and to be thoughtful when they do, you’re going to like Veronika Kudermetova.