Monday, September 22, 2008

Safina overcomes Kuznetsova to win Pan Pacific Open

TOKYO: Olympic silver medallist Dinara Safina powered past Svetlana Kuznetsova in an all-Russian final on Sunday to win the Pan Pacific Open, her fourth title of the year.

Safina, the 22-year-old French Open finalist and world No 5, notched an easy 6-1, 6-3 victory over Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion and world No 7, to take the title in her first-ever appearance in Tokyo.

"I'm just feeling great. I've been playing here the whole week my best tennis I've ever played. It's nice, because it's the first time I'm here in Tokyo. I could show my best tennis. I'm really happy this week," said Safina.

"We know each other very well," Safina said of Kuznetsova. "Actually we are very good friends off court. I focused on myself and I think I did everything right today. I don't want to say she will have revenge, but hope that we will have some good matches."

With the win, Safina - who has also won titles this year in Berlin, Los Angeles and Montreal - will move up in the WTA rankings to a career-high No 3.

"Actually it's very nice when you can go up in the rankings. I just hope that I'm going to continue to be healthy and give 100 percent day by day," said Safina, the sister of former US Open and Australian Open champion Marat Safin.

Safina defeated Kuznetsova thanks to her powerful returns on second serve, winning five of eight break chances.

Safina had her first break opportunity at 15-40 in the fourth game of the first set, which she cashed in two points later by charging to the net on a short ball for a backhand volley winner to lead 3-1.

She carried the momentum through to win the first set, never facing a break point on her own serve.

Kuznetsova, who hit a double fault on a break point to lose the first game of the second set, got back to 2-all when Safina returned the favor, double faulting on break point in the fourth game.

But Safina piled on the pressure, firing a sizzling forehand passing shot to break back in the following game and pulling off another break in the ninth to finish off the 78-minute match.

It was Safina's ninth career victory overall. She took home the winner's check of $196,900.

Safina improved her lifetime record against Kuznetsova to six wins and four defeats. She has not lost to Kuznetsova this season, and defeated her in the semifinals at the French Open.

For Kuznetsova, who has yet to win a title this season, it was her fourth loss in a title match this season, after Sydney, Dubai and Indian Wells.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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