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Svetlana Kuznetsova wrapped up the match in surprisingly short time - only 74 minutes as Dinara Safina failed to get going. The impressive aspect of Svetlana's game was her better adjustment to the conditions and her willingness to vary the pace and spin on her shots to keep Safina off balance. Judicious movement to the net and use of the drop shot added to Safina's difficulties. For Dinara, the lack of options of playing style on the clay proved to be her undoing.
It was a nervy start for both players as they exchanged service breaks. Kuznetsova was the first to find some touch with a scrambling down-the-line backhand winner and a beautifully squared backhand volley. The match then settled into a nice rhythm with Safina as expected, controlling from the baseline while Kuznetsova getting her tactics bang on, counter attacked at every possible opportunity. Safina though still hadn't got her serve cranked up the way she would have liked and it gave Svetlana options on the return. And this was exploited in the always crucial game 8 with Svetlana breaking Safina with some aggression and with some bad bounce. She immediately had the chance to serve for the set.
Kuznetsova's mental frailties in closing out sets and matches is well documented and was on full public display as she played a nervy error prone game to gift the break straight back. But she steadied herself and with a couple of calculated risks including one where she stepped around a return to hit an outright winner, broke a leaden footed Safina once again to take the set 6-4. The key stat at this juncture was Safina's 5 winners. For a playing style like hers, 5 winners is way tooÂ few and played a huge part in her first set loss. Another appreciable difference was in the mobility of the two players and Kuznetsova, by far the better athlete was a step ahead and making full use of that advantage.
Winning the set suddenly changed the dynamics of the match. One could see the visible relaxing of the Kuznetsova shoulders and the rage mounting within Safina. A mouthful to her coach at 1-1 in the second set helped to release some of it, but Dinara was still simmering just beneath the surface. Kuznetsova on the other hand was playing the smarter tennis, but hadn't been able to translate the accrued benefits into a healthy second set lead. But that was till 3-2 when anxiety and frustration got the better of Safina as she lost her nerve and serve to go down 2-4. Kuznetsova was a picture of calm and even had time to show off her football skills, much to the delight of the appreciative French crowd. She held without drama to take it to 5-2 and thenÂ proceeded to finish the match off then and there by breaking Safina. The end was illustrative of the way the day went as Safina finished with a double-fault and then let loose the frustration and grief.
File Photograph Stuttgart Open
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