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Kuznetsova Cuts Off Safina For First Trophy In Two Years

img_1153-version-2In the finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, a clay court premier tournament, Svetlana Kuznetsova vanquished fellow Russian and world number one, Dinara Safina, 6-4, 6-3 to claim her tenth career title.

After each player readily held serve, Kuznetsova faced two break points but dismissed them with forehand up the line winners for 2-1. Serving at 2-3, Safina had a backhand go long after a rocket forehand return by Kuznetsova giving the latter a 15-30 edge. Nevertheless, with a backhand volley winner and an ace, Dinara preserved the game. Then, after Svetlana had no trouble with her service game, Dinara double faulted and made an unforced error giving her rival break point. In spite of that, Safina wiggled out of that predicament with another ace and unforced errors by Kuznetsova to square the set at 4. After securing a 5-4 advantage with a forehand up the line winner, Kuznetsova overpowered Safina with forehand winners to get double break point. With Safina’s backhand finding the net, Kuznetsova rested the set.

The difference in the first set was Kuznetsova’s accuracy not only with her forehand, but her consistency from the backhand side. However with the score 1-1, Kuznetsova had a backhand travel long to hand Safina double break point. Still, with powerful forehand winners, Svetlana kept her slim edge for 2-1. Although theoretically Dinara was holding serve, in reality, she was relying too much on her second serve. That flaw came back to haunt her at 2-3 when Kuznetsova, with double break point, fired a backhand return deep which resulted in a weak reply by Safina. Subsequently, Kuznetsova put away an easy forehand volley for a 4-2 lead. After consolidating with a love service game, Kuznetsova had an initial match point because of a Safina double fault. Dinara managed a backhand return error for deuce. Afterwards, with a forehand crosscourt winner and backhand misfired by her rival, Dinara prolonged the match. Then, with a strong service game, Kuznetsova on her third championship point smashed an overhead for a winner to end the set.

Having lost eight straight finals and with Safina winning seven of their eleven meetings, including the last four, Kuznetsova didn’t seem to have a pray. So, this week, Kuznetsova got a big monkey off her back. In addition to Kuznetsova’s last title being in 2007, it had been a while since she prevailed over a top five opponent. In the semifinals, Kuznetsova banished world number three Elena Dementieva in straight sets. From number nine, Svetlana’s ranking will bump up to number eight. Importantly, Jelena Jankovic struggles persist. Italy’s Flavia Pennetta ousted the second seed and world number four in the quarterfinals. Also, Argentina’s Gisela Dulko stopped recent Sony Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

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