Russian star Svetlana Kuznetsova has rapped her rivals who groan about having to play on grass at Wimbledon and told them to follow clay-court ace Rafael Nadal’s example.
Kuznetsova, three times a Wimbledon quarter-finalist even though she admits to preferring hard courts, is top seed at Eastbourne’s £300,000 (€378,000) International Women’s Open where she will start her campaign for a second title today.
Now the 23-year-old has aimed a verbal volley at opponents who prefer to stay in their comfort zone.
She said: “For sure, grass is not a popular surface with too many players on the tour. I think a lot of players don’t get very good coaching or advice about it. And if their game is not suited to grass they are not willing to change a few things for these few weeks of the year.
“Sure, it is just a short period but you can always improve, and yet you don’t see people willing to try to improve things when they play on grass.
“I see girls playing from the baseline trying to win matches but on grass you have got to do something else sometimes. That’s always been my attitude but only a few are the same.
“Rafael (Nadal) plays very well on clay of course but on grass he comes into the net more now and shortens his swing. He has improved a lot on grass and this is the way to go.”
Monte Carlo-based Kuznetsova used her power to win a first Eastbourne title in 2004 – and went on to grab the US Open crown the same year after an all-Russian final against Elena Dementieva.
She has won nine WTA titles since turning professional seven years ago and would have taken the number one world ranking had she won the French Open last month – instead of exiting in the semi-finals to another compatriot, Dinara Safina.
She is only top seed at Eastbourne because of French champion Ana Ivanovic’s late withdrawal.
Seven Russians entered the main draw, including qualifier Alisa Kleybanova, 19, whose fearsome serve dispatched the last British contender, Surrey’s Melanie South, in straight sets.
Yorkshire’s Katie O’Brien had gone out in similar fashion on the opening day to Australia’s Samantha Stosur who now meets Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, the 2006 Wimbledon champion, who after a nightmare 2007 dropped out of the top 20 for the first time in seven years but recovered from her latest French Open flop by impressively beating sixth-seeded compatriot Alize Cornet.
Kuznetsova opens up today against Danish outsider Caroline Wozniaki, and her path to another final has been smoothed by the disappointing withdrawal of Lindsay Davenport who needs a scan on a knee to discover whether she will be fit for her Wimbledon comeback following a year out after having her first child.