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Old Sep 12th, 2004, 12:33 PM   #19
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Kuznetsova Queen of All-Russian Final
by Yoni Goldberg
Saturday, September 11, 2004


The women's tennis revolution was televised. Indeed, in a primetime matchup, No. 9 Svetlana Kuznetsova followed Anastasia Myskina and Maria Sharapova, champions at the French Open and Wimbledon respectively, to become the third consecutive Russian woman to break through and win her first major as she trumpted No. 6 seed and fellow countrywoman Elena Dementieva 6-3, 7-5 to capture the 2004 US Open Women's Singles Championship title.

Kuznetsova, a hard-hitting 19-year-old, feasted on Dementieva's anemic second serve, capturing 65% of the second serve points en route to breaking the French Open finalist in five of her ten service games.

At the outset, however, Kuznetsova seemed nervous and shaky, making three unforced errors in the first game, losing her powerful serve at love. "I was so nervous during the first game. I was thinking, 'What should I do here today?'" She continued, "But something was telling me I'd be fine and settle down."

She was right. As would become the norm, Kuznetsova bounced back and, after three deuces, she drilled huge forehands and broke back to even the game score at 1.

The contest quickly settled into a baseline slugfest, tailor-made for Kuznetsova's booming groundstrokes and Dementieva, who mustered a mere seven winners during the match and struggled to build any momentum as the set progressed. After dropping her serve in the sixth game to give Kuznetsova a 4-2 lead, the pair stayed on serve, allowing Kuznetsova to win the set 6-3.

Appearing charged at the beginning of the second frame, Dementieva hardly sat down between sets, preferring to stand at the baseline waiting for play to resume. She quickly held serve and broke Kuznetsova to take an early 2-0 lead in the second set. Four games later, with the set back on serve, Dementieva placed herself squarely in the driver's seat after breaking Kuznetsova in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead.

Things did not, however, take long to unravel for the six-foot-tall Russian. Kuznetsova, breaking Dementieva, put the set on serve again in the eighth game.

With the set knotted at 5-5, Dementieva's serve, a part of her game with which she struggled all tournament, finally caught up with her. Kuznetsova won the first two points of the eleventh game with forehand winners off of Dementieva's second serve. Trailing 15-30, Dementieva double faulted, giving Kuznetsova a pair of break points and, ultimately, a 6-5 lead and the chance to serve the match.

Just two years removed from entering the Open as a qualifier, Kuznetsova, serving for her first major championship, held her composure splendidly. On her second match point, Kuznetsova rifled her third ace of the night to close out the tournament.

Asked about her muted post-match celebration, she responded, "I was so excited, but maybe shocked, but I had a feeling I could do it here in New York."
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