Of the plethora of Russian tennis players on the WTA Tour, Nadia Petrova is often over-looked, despite having once occupied the world No. 3 spot.
Historically, the French Open has been Petrova’s happiest hunting ground. In both 2003 and 2005, she reached the semi-finals, the furthest she has gone in any major to date.
For Petrova, there will be no such run again at Roland Garros this year. In an enthralling final set, she found herself playing second fiddle to a Russian, yet again.
Throughout her career, Petrova has won a total of nine WTA Tour singles titles, the majority of which came in, arguably, her finest year back in 2006.
She was 23-years old then, and had already been to the semi-final of a major on two separate occasions, she must have felt as though she could kick on and become a big time player on the women’s tour.
Two weeks prior to the 2006 French Open, Petrova posted the finest result of her career. Coming from one set behind at the German Open, she bested one of the greatest players to play the game, Justine Henin.
Yet, her run in Paris was non-existent as she was knocked out in the first round.
Ever since that crushing blow, she has struggled to compete with the best women around. It’s as though the wind doesn't blow in her sails any more, but also that the vessel itself is broken.
While Petrova struggles to make a mark on the game, it seems as though the rest of the Russian contingent go from strength to strength.
Maria Sharapova has three major titles to her name and has the potential to add a few more to that tally. Svetlana Kuznetsova won the US Open in 2004, while Anastasia Myskina lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in 2005. Even Elena Dementieva, the perennial nearly girl, won an Olympic gold medal in Beijing last year.
For around five years Petrova has had to watch her compatriots out-perform her on a consistent basis, and now she has to endure Dinara Safina holding the world No. 1 ranking.
It cannot be easy to see so many people who pundits and fans alike will compare you to capturing so many titles.
Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why Petrova seems to put so much pressure on herself. She expects to hit every ball perfectly, which can be evident when she mis-hits a shot and subsequently has a quiet rant to herself on court.
She fully expects to be winning tournaments, which is by no means a flaw in her mental make up, but in order to fully realise your potential you need to be able to relax and play naturally.
The simple fact of the matter is that you’re not going to be able to produce your best tennis every time you step out on court. So, in those moments when you’re striving for a bit of form you need to be able to fight.
More often than not Petrova doesn’t showcase the kind of battling qualities that are going to win you tournaments on a regular basis.
In today’s encounter with Sharapova, she did battle, but she was never likely to out last Sharapova in a battle. Petrova played the better tennis, yet Sharapova’s belief, fight, and desire somehow got her over the finish line.
Sharapova exemplifies all the qualities it takes to win tough matches. Petrova doesn’t. That’s the reason why Petrova hasn’t fulfilled the potential she displayed when she broke onto the scene, as well as the reason why she will always be in the shadow of her fellow Russians.