Bizarre: tennis star gives herself a hair cut mid-match
Singapore: To the roll call of odd happenings at changes-of-ends in tennis matches, add the name Svetlana Kuztnetsova. Trailing 1-2 in the third set of her WTA Finals opener against Agnieszka Radwanska, the dual grand slam champion asked for a pair of scissors – big scissors – and hacked off the bottom of her plait. An unusual time and place, it must be said, for some crude DIY hairdressing.
At last year’s men’s equivalent, the ATP World Tour Finals, Andy Murray had chopped off a few annoying strands he claimed were getting in his eyes during a loss to Rafael Nadal, but that was a minor trim by comparison.
Kuztnetsova’s mid-match haircut
Russian tennis player Svetlana Kuztnetsova asked for a pair of scissors in the third set of the WTA Finals in Singapore, so she could chop off the bottom of her plait.
Back in 1988 at Wimbledon, Boris Becker snipped away some errant locks during a semi-final against Ivan Lendl. Others have read books (Jim Courier) in their courtside chair; in January, Nick Kyrgios answered his mobile phone during the sit-down before his Australian Open mixed doubles match with girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic.
Kuznetsova’s pile of severed hair was on one towel, but another towel was needed at the 2-3 change-of-ends for the 31-year-old to cry into after a time violation warning from umpire Felix Torralba. It was all too much as the exhaustion of her supreme effort to reach the WTA Finals for the first time in seven years – achieved through a demanding, must-win title in distant Moscow – appeared to spill over during a dramatic contest.
And yet, remarkably, Kuznetsova eventually won it, saving a match point – as she had in Wuhan last month – before defeating Radwanska, the defending champion and second seed, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in two hours, 48 minutes. Kuznetsova has now won nine of her past 10 matches against the Pole, and 13 of 17 overall.
“At some point I was just ready to let it go and just lay on the court and let them take me out of here. I was just trying to stay in there and hang in there,” Kuznetsova admitted after the first round-robin contest in the White Group. In the second, debutante Karolina Pliskova also saved a match point and recovered a 2-5 deficit in the third set to topple French Open champion Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5 in another lengthy up-and-down encounter.
Kuznetsova had earlier posted on Instagram that “sometimes you gotta do it not by best hairdressers and not at best time”. In the interview room, she explained that it had been more important to win the match than to lose some annoying, unruly hair. “It was bothering me a lot. I was trying to put it behind my headband, but my hair is very thick and heavy,” she said.
“In the end, when I was hitting the forehands every time … it would hit my eye every time and I had (to) struggle. I thought, ‘OK, what’s more important now, my hair which I can let grow, or the match?’ I thought, ‘OK, I got to go for it right now, and that’s it. I was not thinking too much, though. I was just trying to get the best of me … I don’t even know how much I cut there.”
Bad hair day: Svetlana Kuznetsova hacks off her hair. Photo: Getty Images
Only 48 hours earlier, the veteran world No.9 had been in Moscow, thwarting Australian Daria Gavrilova’s bid for a first career title in the Kremlin Cup final, and thus pinching the last qualifying spot in Singapore from Britain’s Johanna Konta.
Gavrilova, who was watching Monday night’s show-stopper, tweeted, incredulously: “Did Sveta just cut her own hair?” Yes, she did. And she also found an outlet for her emotions, and bravely found a way to win a match that several times looked to be slipping away.
It’s all a bit too much for Agnieszka Radwanska. Photo: Getty Images
“I tried to behave and act like I’m professional athlete, professional player. I mean, sometimes it’s not easy, you know,” admitted the resurgent former world No.2, who was almost outside the top 100 three years ago. “Sometimes you’re kind of pulling through, you know, saying, ‘OK, I put aside that I’m tired, I put aside emotions, the jet lag, whatever’.
“I didn’t want to think about it. I was trying to think we’re even. We came here both to fight and let’s play the match. Put all things aside. When I got the warning I was like, ‘Come on. I’m trying so hard.’ Then I just let it go because I was like, ‘Come on. (It’s) just impossible right now. Maybe at some stage it helped me. I was trying as much, as hard as I could, to fight and just be there.”
Radwanska, irritated about being asked about a hair cut she had been unaware of after losing a match she was in a position to win, lamented her inability to convert leads in both the first and third sets. The upside, though, was that former Wimbledon runner-up managed to qualify for the semi-finals last year with just a 1-2 record in group play.
“I guess against those kind of players like Sveta when you’re not taking your chances, you’re not going to be a winner,” she said. “Obviously Sveta is one of the players she can do everything on court. Very solid, very consistent, and very tricky player. Of course in the end of the day everything is open still. It’s just the first day. Yeah, we’ll see what’s going to happen.”