Svetlana Kuznetsova made the sort of history athletes dread Monday, becoming the first female defending champion to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open since the championship began in 1887.
The fifth-seeded Kuznetsova fell to fellow Russian Ekaterina Bychkova, the least heralded among the 12 Russian women in the event, 6-3, 6-2, engineering her own demise by committing 45 unforced errors in the 65-minute match.
"I tried my best; it wasn't my day," Kuznetsova said. "What do I do? Kill myself? No, I don't. Just take positive things out of this, and maybe I'll try to learn."
Kuznetsova became the third Russian woman to win a Grand Slam event last year, defeating compatriot Elena Dementieva to win the U.S. Open at 19. Earlier in the year Anastasia Myskina won the French Open, and 17-year-old Maria Sharapova followed suit at Wimbledon. While Kuznetsova couldn't pinpoint the reason for her collapse against the 97th-ranked Bychkova, she nodded when asked if she was familiar with the phrase "burnout."
"I'm pretty familiar with that," said Kuznetsova, who competed in 21 tournaments, the Olympics and four rounds of Federation Cup last year. "I know how you feel when you just don't have any gas and you can't go any more. Year after year you cannot just keep playing like 32 events a year or 25. I just want to have some time off and just start it again. I really believe I'm going to do well again."
Gimelstob Opens Wide
Justin Gimelstob has yet to play his first match at the U.S. Open, but he may as well be sporting "Loser" on his forehead -- at least with top-ranked Lindsay Davenport -- for his debut column on Sports Illustrated's Web site. Titled "Nobody's Safe," Gimelstob, 28, uses the forum to take aim at what he perceives as the eccentricities of the women's tour. He cites the trend of scanty practice outfits, opining: "If you resemble a beached whale, keep your gear on!" He also empathizes with female pros for having to "compete," in terms of their appearance, with wives and girlfriends of male players -- women he calls "the most beautiful 1 percent of female creatures on the planet."
Davenport called the column "a waste of time."
"I'm always curious what the fascination is about men and how they have to judge women constantly, you know: What they look like, what they wear, who they hang out with," Davenport said. "The women [pros] are like, 'Oh yeah, he's cute, well whatever.' We don't sit there and go, 'Oh my gosh, his arms are a little thin, his legs are a little too thick.' And men have this endless fascination with, it just seems like -- and Justin especially -- about just depicting and picking on everything about the body."