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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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Smashnova dumps Kournikova at ASB Bank Classic tennis

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (TICKER) -- The drought continues.

Anna Smashnova of Israel ended Anna Kournikova's bid for her elusive first WTA Tour tournament title Friday with a 6-1, 6-4 victory in the semifinals of the $140,000 ASB Bank Classic.

The most photographed tennis player never to win a tournament, Kournikova is coming back from a foot injury that sidelined her for most of the 2001 season and dropped her to 71st in the WTA rankings.

After rallying for a three-set triumph in the quarterfinals, and with just one seeded player left in the field, she could not make it four wins in a row.

"I'm a little disappointed that I didn't play my game," said Kournikova, a 20-year-old Russian. "I let her play her game and I needed to be more aggressive. But I have had three wins and four good matches. It is good preparation for the Australian Open."

Smashnova, 25, advanced to her first final since capturing her second WTA title at Knokke-Heist in July 2000.

"Kournikova was not playing her best, but I was not playing my best, either," she said. "I made a decision that if I wanted to be a professional tennis player and this was to be my job that I needed to be more committed and focused. Since then, I have worked very hard with my fitness trainer and coach."

Awaiting Smashnova in the final is fifth seed Tatiana Panova of Russia, who swept past Croatian qualifier Silvija Talaja, 6-3, 6-2, as she seeks her first career title.

Panova has carried the momentum from 2001, when she compiled a 29-17 match record and six quarterfinal appearances over the final six months.

"I have more belief in myself in the moment and have more confidence," Panova said. "I'm doing the right things and I'm working hard. I have been working five to six hours every day."

Smashnova took the only meeting with Panova in straight sets in 1997 in qualifying at Oklahoma City.
 

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I can't believe Anna Kournikova was routined by Anna Smashnova. This is getting scary for us Kournikova fans. When will she get the monkey off her back? The pressure on her to win her first wTA title must be incredible. I just hope she can stand up to it.
 
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