Kuznetsova Loses Then Finds Her Nerve To Win Mercury Insurance Open Title.

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Kuznetsova Keeps It Together at Mercury Insurance Open.

Not too many people at the start of this week’s Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad, California expected much from Svetlana Kuznetsova who came in as an unseeded player. But as she navigated her way past several top 20 players on her way to the finals, the feeling was the title was Kuznetsova’s to win so long as she held her nerve and kept finding the range on her fearsome forehand. Today in the finals against Agnieszka Radwanska, it indeed was all up to the Russian as she dictated play for most of the match. But as expected, when it came down to closing out the match, Kuznetsova had to battle her nerves just when it seemed victory was inevitable.

In the first set, Kuznetsova continued her hard-hitting form and found opportunities early into the Radwanska service games as the Russian broke twice to go up 4-1 early. Kuznetsova served for the set at 5-2 but had a letdown and gave her service game away at love to let Radwanska back into the set before Kuznetsova finally closed out the set 6-4 by hitting a forehand winner behind Radwanska. Kuznetsova continued her steady play in the second set and despite Radwanksa’s best efforts to stay in the rallies, Kuznetsova used her power game at will while Radwanska’s forays into net were often met with a quick passing shot from the Russian. Kuznetsova broke again and served for the match at 5-4.

And then that’s when the nerves set in. Kuznetsova’s shots started finding the net and she soon gave the break back to level things at 5-5. Both players then held to enter the tiebreak and it was there that Kuznetsova jumped out to 4-0 lead and seemed poised to close it out. Eventually she had 6-3, but Kuznetsova double faulted then hit two more shaky groundstrokes to give Radwanska a second chance at 6-6. Radwanska had her own nervy serves as well but finally managed to put one in that led to Radwanksa hitting a short forehand that Kuznetsova couldn’t chase down giving Radwanska the set.

With many in the crowd rooting for Radwanska and yelling out their support in Polish, it seemed like the momentum was with the 21-year-old from Krakow. After she went up an early break at 2-1 in the third set, all seemed lost for Kuznetsova. But it was the Russian who looked more calm and focused on court as she started stepping in to attack Radwanska’s second serve and firing off winners at will. Kuznetsova broke back and from there it was like the second set never happened. Up 5-3, Kuznetsova stepped up to the line again to serve it out and this time did so with ease as she hit a forehand winner in the deuce court to take the match 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-3.

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Kuznetsova Talks About Choking Second Set Away.

Ecstatic with winning her first final of the year, the always candid Kuznetsova admitted she choked away the second set. “I don’t know why it happened but here I couldn’t make the ball. I’m happy today that I could play that bad at the end of the second set and I could start all over in the third set.” She then added with a laugh, “It’s funny for me now after I win the match but if I lost that third set I would be like, “Oh my God. Should I finish playing tennis? It was a disaster. But I will do everything now so it will not happen again.”

Radwanska herself said Kuznetsova was the better player today but that she had her own chances to take the match but didn’t. “She (Kuznetsova) played better and was more consistent and still fighting to the end. I had break points but I didn’t use them.”

For both winner and loser, this week’s run to the finals has been a boost both for their games and rankings. Radwanska will now be ranked No. 9 in the world on Monday while Kuznetsova finds herself back in the top 15 since falling out of the top 20 several weeks ago.

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