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Old Apr 1st, 2006, 03:36 PM   #90
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SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA

Impressive, upsetting win

Bothered by having to play her friend and doubles partner, Svetlana Kuznetsova beat top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo to reach the women's singles final.

BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

Svetlana Kuznetsova had just defeated the world's No. 1 female tennis player Thursday to advance to Saturday's NASDAQ-100 Open women's final, but you couldn't tell by her stoic expression. She didn't smile, didn't even pump a fist -- just shook hands and walked off Stadium Court.

Across the net: top-ranked Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, Kuznetsova's close friend and doubles partner.

''It was very hard. I am kind of sad, you know,'' said the Russian victor, whose 6-1, 6-4 win took 79 minutes. 'I come to the gym and I said to my coach, `You know, I'm a bit sad because I [didn't] want to . . .' Amelie is different to me because she's my doubles partner -- she's very nice to me.

'But he said, `Look, you got to do what you got to do. You had to play. You played well.' I had mistakes before because I played with people who [are] very close [to me] and I cannot play. But this is like, 'Do the job,' and outside we are friends.''

Fourteenth-ranked Kuznetsova, who has handed Mauresmo two of her four losses this year, will meet Maria Sharapova -- who advanced when Tatiana Golovin retired trailing 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 4-3 -- in the final at noon Saturday. Kuznetsova also defeated Mauresmo in straight sets last month in a quarterfinal at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Thursday, Kuznetsova blew away her doubles partner -- the two will play in the doubles semifinals today -- in the first set in 26 minutes, dominating with fierce groundstrokes.

''She played really well,'' said Mauresmo, 26, who won her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January and will still be ranked first next week. ``She hit very hard on both sides and very long. I was trying everything I could out there. I was getting frustrated that I could not express myself in the game.''

Kuznetsova, 20, lives and trains in Barcelona, Spain. She grew up in a family of world-class cyclists from St. Petersburg, Russia.

Her father, Alexandr, has coached six Olympic and world champions, including her mother, Galina Tsareva, a six-time world champion. Her brother, Nikolai, won an Olympic silver medal at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

''I tried it,'' Kuznetsova said. ``I really did some races. I was maybe like 10 and the other girls were 17, but I still loved to do it.

'Then one day suddenly my dad said, `You know, you got to do something else.' Because when he had my mom on team, he had women's and men's team, and one day he decide it's too complicated to have both. He said he going to have only guys.

``He [sent] me to play tennis.''

She worked her way to No. 4 in the rankings in October 2004 after winning the U.S. Open -- her only Grand Slam title. And even though she has dipped out of the top-10, her career is on the rise again.

This week her victims included Martina Hingis, against whom she saved a match point in a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (11-9) fourth-round victory. And despite her immediate reaction after beating Mauresmo on Thursday, Kuznetsova had reason to be pleased.

''I'm pretty excited with the way I played,'' said Kuznetsova, one of seven Russian women ranked among the top-20. ``I dictated the match almost all the time. The second set was pretty close, but I knew I have to hang in there. Otherwise, if I let Amelie play a little bit, I wouldn't get it back.''
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