From Russia with love

Published by Matt Trollope

Elena Vesnina (L) and Svetlana Kuznetsova in action at the BNP Paribas Open; Getty Images
Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Vesnina will go head-to-head in an all-Russian final between two veterans of the game who first crossed paths as children.

Thirty is the new 20.

That’s the mantra we keep hearing from Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Vesnina, who will meet in the final of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.

The Russians, aged 31 and 30 respectively, have both pointed to their experience being a factor this fortnight in the Californian desert, as well as how much they’re both loving the game.

That’s significant, given how long both have been plying their trade.

Kuznetsova, after beating Karolina Pliskova in a big-hitting semifinal, mentioned that she and Vesnina has been teammates even prior to their teenage years in junior competition in Sochi.

They’ve since gone on to represent Russia together in Fed Cup.

Strangely, they’ve barely met on the singles court.

Despite both have turned around 15 years ago, they’ve played only twice; once in 2009 in Dubai, a match Vesnina won, and most recently in 2014 in Portugal, where Kuznetsova triumphed.

Vesnina, the underdog going into the match according to just about every metric – including ranking, big singles-match experience and tournament history – is well aware of what her compatriot can bring to the court.

“She obviously liked playing here with the balls flying and jumping quite high. She’s using her forehand, like, powerful forehand topspin here a lot. Brings a lot of points,” the world No.15 assessed.

“What I saw in couple of matches (that) Svetlana was playing, she was serving really well in key moments. It’s going to be very difficult match when you’re playing against (a player) from the same country.

“It’s not easy, but I hope I can play good tennis in the final. I hope I can enjoy it.”

Kuznetsova, admitted she had neither practised a lot with Vesnina or watched any of the women’s tournament.

“Not for not respecting. I love to watch women’s tennis,” she said.

“But I have been on some, like, low routine, just chilling at the house, watching some great doubles, actually men’s doubles matches. That’s what was on the TV and some great men’s matches.

“I haven’t talked to Carlos about the game plan. I haven’t been thinking about it.”

Perhaps, after so long at the top of the game, on the tour and knowing Vesnina, the eighth-ranked Kuznetsova is beyond the point of scouting.

The pair will go head-to-head at 11am PDT on Sunday at Indian Wells.

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