Svetlana Kuznetsova loses in first match back from surgery to Aryna Sabalenka in Indian Wells

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(Photo credit: Twitter/@bnpparibasopen)

Svetlana Kuznetsova admits her return to tennis at Indian Wells after having wrist surgery last November may have been a bit premature but the Russian has no regrets following her opening round loss to Aryna Sabalenka on Friday.

Kuznetsova, a finalist in the California desert last year as well as in 2007 and 2008, played her first match since Beijing last October on Friday morning and fell 6-4, 6-3 to her Belarusian opponent in one hour and 13 minutes.

The two-time Grand Slam champion confessed her doctor advised her to come back at a later date but she was keen to get back on the court, despite still feeling some pain in her left wrist.

“I still have pain. And the doctor said it should pass. Of course the easy thing is to say I’ll go home until it passes but I don’t look for easy things,” Kuznetsova told Sport360 after her defeat on Friday.

“He said I should start later. A little bit later. Perhaps it’s too early but it’s okay, you need to try to dig in.”


Kuznetsova will drop out of the top-20 for the first time in two years, when the new rankings are released after Indian Wells.

The 32-year-old had never undergone surgery before and is still figuring out how to deal with the aftermath.

“Because I never faced a surgery so I never knew when I should come back, how it will be… it’s really a mental thing with the backhands and stuff like that but I’m doing much better compared to the first days I was here because the first days were horrible,” she said.

“Sabalenka played great, she had nothing to lose, I had chances, I had two times 0-30 and 15-40 on her serve in the first set. So I had my chances but still this lack of confidence and matches it means a lot and the more matches I play the sooner I’ll get in.

“So it’s okay to accept the losses, it’s a step forward in getting back in match shape.”

Kuznetsova explained that if her recovery goes well, there would be no need to make any adjustments to the way she hits her backhand and that it is merely a matter of time before she is pain-free.

While most people returning from injuries would cut themselves some slack and play with less pressure, it is not that simple for someone like Kuznetsova.

“It’s difficult. It’s a lot of requests I ask myself. I want to play good, otherwise I don’t want to play and it all starts like that. But I’m working on my mind and I feel better. I feel much better mentally and trying not to put pressure and trying to enjoy the match. But of course it’s difficult, I struggle a lot the first matches because it’s a comeback and I expect to do well,” she explained.

Sabalenka went two for two on Friday, returning to Stadium 6 for a doubles victory alongside Victoria Azarenka over Sloane Stephens and Eugenie Bouchard.

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