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Silvia Farina Elia stopped Croatian qualifier Karolina Sprem's surprising run Saturday and won her third straight Strasbourg Open tennis title.

The seventh-seeded Italian edged Sprem, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in the final of the $170,000 claycourt event - a final tune-up for the French Open, which begins on Monday.

"I didn't believe I could win another title here because I had already won twice," Farina Elia said. "It was a very hard draw. My best matches were the semifinals and the final. I played two young players (Ashley Harkleroad in the semifinals) that I had never played before. They play very aggressive, fast tennis and they go for the winner. That is tennis of the future.

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"I had to use my experience, be agressive, change the rhythm of the matches and play good during important points (to win)."

Farina Elia, who took home $27,000, has secured all three career titles at this event. She will face Conchita Martinez Granados of Spain in the first round at Roland Garros.

The 31-year-old Farina Elia entered this week after consecutive first-round defeats at the German Open and Italian Open. Last month, she was forced to withdraw from Charleston and the following week's tournament at Amelia Island, Florida due to a back and right leg injury, respectively.

Although Farina Elia continued her domination of this event, the story of the week was Sprem, who had not won a WTA Tour main draw match in her career.

The 18-year-old did gain a win in a Fed Cup tie last month, defeating Russian Elena Likhovtseva, but she lost in qualifying at Casablanca and Budapest. She entered the event in Bol earlier this month as a wild card, losing in the first round.

Sprem started 2003 by winning her first 28 matches and four tournaments on the ITF circuit.

"I was a bit nervous at the start of the match because it was my first final and I was also very tired," she said. "I had heat cramps but that did not affect my play. After one set all, I gave it all. It was a close match but I am very happy with my results."

Farina Elia was impressed with Sprem.

"Karolina had a good attitude for her first final," the veteran said. "Although she is not ranked in the top 100, she played this week like a top-20 player."

This week, Sprem ousted top-seeded Yugoslavian Jelena Dokic in three sets Wednesday and upset sixth-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the semifinals.

"Strasbourg is a great place for me," the teenager said. "I spent ten unbelievable days. Now I'm going home, will rest for two days, then practice again to be ready for Vienna, and hopefully the Wimbledon main draw."
 

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Team WTAworld, Senior Member
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Karolina! Top 20, you go girl!
 

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Premium Member
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Congrats Silivia!! U have had a shocker of a year soo far! So lets hope this gives you the confidence you need to go back inside top 15!!
 
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