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Old Feb 23rd, 2006, 12:20 PM   #82
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Kuznetsova overcomes slow start to win
By Edwin Ashie-Nikoi

22 February 2006






DUBAI — Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia recovered from a slow start to overcome spirited Martina Muller Germany 6-2, 6-0 in the $1 million DDF Women’s Open which entered its second day here yesterday.

Though Muller, a qualifier, lost, she gave a good account of herself in the first set as Kuznetsova struggled to find her rhythm. The German put her opponent under early pressure through her double-fisted backhand drives but her forehand volleys let her down.

After Kuznetsova had battled her way to level 30-30, Muller took the next point and appeared she was on her to take the first game. But the Russian came back to force deuce and went on to win the game.

Muller, however, did not let opportunities in the second game slip by this time as she breezed into a 30-15 and kept the same pace to level 1-1. Kuznetsova, ranked 15th in the world and second round loser here to Sania Mirza of India last year, showed a lot of improvement in her game in the third. Backed by a series of fine serves, she took control of the proceedings to take the game for a 2-1 lead. Muller showed plenty of fight-back in the fourth but she was broken for the second time to trail 1-3.

Kuznetsova started to attack the net more in the fifth game sending her opponent around the court on a couple of occasions. The Russian took a 40-15 lead and completed the game with her second ace for a comfortable 4-1 lead.

Muller, ranked 102 in the world, came back strongly in the sixth as she in turn kept the Russian busy with some brilliant forehand shots. She made Kuznetsova run around the court to retrieve some difficult shots. Muller took a 40-30 lead but Kuznetsova fought back to force deuce. The Russian though, was not to be denied as she took the game to cut down the scores 4-2.

The Russian then held her serve in the seventh and broke Muller in the next to take the set 6-2. The second was relatively easy for the Russian as she dominated to take it 6-0 and the match.

Kuznetsova said afterwards: “I struggled in the early stages of the game as it took me time to get into the match. I could not hit in the right position. But when I got into my rhythm, I did not look back.”

The Russian is hoping she could one day win the championship. “There are many Russians here and that motivates me more. It is a nice atmosphere here and the crowds are good. I wish I could win it one day.”

She, however, admitted the tournament was getting harder every year. But I enjoy playing against good players here. I know I can play well but I have to work harder to win here. It is a matter of time,” she added.

Meanwhile, veteran Martina Navratilova of the US and her South African partner Liezel Huber, went down 1-6, 5-7 in the doubles on court one. The match was witnessed by a large crowd which indicated the American’s popularity. There were even youngsters seeking her autograph after the match. Navratilova and her partner, who easily went down in the first set, gave a good fight in the second.

With Huber’s left leg heavily strapped, Navratilova single-handedly led most of the attack. The pair came back from 3-4 down in the second as they broke serve and held their own to lead 5-4. But their younger opponents, Jelena/Li, fought back as they saved two set points to level 5-5 and held serve to take a 6-5 lead before scraping to take the set 7-5 and the match.
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