MADRID, Spain - A 'confident' Svetlana Kuznetsova scored her first win over a Top 10 player in two years to serve notice in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open.
The two-time Grand Slam champion defeated No.10 seed Aryna Sabalenka in Saturday's first round, 7-5, 6-4, for her best win in terms of ranking since returning from wrist surgery in April.
"After six months out, I played some good games, but I couldn't manage [a good run]," Kuznetsova told reporters after the match.
"The girl [Jil Teichmann] I lost to [last week], she just won a tournament, so it's a little bit frustrating - I'm always close, close, close, so it's very important to stay positive.
"It just brings confidence before the French Open and everything. I'm not seeded, so I don't know who I'm going to get...I'm enjoying when I win big matches, big stages.
"I realize this is what makes me play good...these big events are what brings [out] the best of me."
— WTA (@WTA) May 4, 2019
In Saturday's opening round, Kuznetsova led 5-2 in the opening set before fending off Sabalenka down the stretch, and utilized the lone break of the second set in the fifth game to win.
"I think it was a good match that had moments that were not so good for both of us. It's not her highest confidence level right now, but neither is mine," the Russian said after the match.
"I knew I would have chances to win, and I think I used my serve well. I struggled in some moments, and I have chances to work on them tomorrow when I have a day off. I'm happy to get the win."
The Russian had not beaten a Top 10 opponent since defeating Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon in 2017, and had lost her last three matches against the elite in that ranking range.
A former runner-up in Madrid four years ago, and a former French Open champion 10 years ago, the Russian is a wildcard this week in the Spanish capital, and looks to build on the momentum of a big win to make a return to the Top 100 and beyond.
"When I started playing these matches, I just don't close them, because I don't have the rhythm," Kuznetsova, who entered the match ranked World No.109, said.
"I feel much better than when I came from wrist surgery, because I was playing for six months [before] with the pain.
"You start to get on yourself because you expect more, and this is where it's tough, and this is where it's patience.
"This match gives me more confidence, like I'm playing on the level with the top players. It's great."