Kuznetsova helps Russia clinch Fed Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/t/tennisgeneric1.jpg' class='caption'> Fed Cup: Svetlana Kuznetsova won Sunday's opening singles match to clinch the final with a 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Francesca Schiavone

Updated: September 19, 2007 16:06 IST
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Svetlana Kuznetsova is feeling better about her game, and Russia has a Fed Cup title to show for it.

Kuznetsova, routed by Justine Henin in the US Open final last week, won Sunday's opening singles match to clinch the final with a 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 victory over Italy's Francesca Schiavone.

"I really wanted to bring the victory, and this time it worked," Kuznetsova said.

Elena Vesnina defeated Mara Santangelo 6-2, 6-4 in the second match to make the final score 4-0. The doubles match of the best-of-five format was canceled.

This was the third title for Russia in the Fed Cup, the top team event in women's tennis. Russia also won in 2004 and 2005 and remained unbeaten in four matches against Italy. The Italians beat Belgium to win their first Fed Cup title last season.

Kuznetsova also won on the opening day of the Fed Cup "I didn't play as well as Saturday, but I could pull it out because of my strong will," she said.

The outcome was vastly different from the one at the US Open, where Kuznetsova lost to Henin 6-1, 6-3 in the title match. It helps, of course, that Kuznetsova clearly had a less formidable opponent in Schiavone, who is ranked No 25.

Four Russian women are ranked among the top 10. And for this series the absence of injured Maria Sharapova did not prove troublesome.

Sharapova has never played Fed Cup for her country, but she practiced with the team leading to the final and joined the victory celebration.

After trading breaks with Kuznetsova early in the first set, Schiavone won three consecutive games to take the first set.

"She made me play some very inconvenient tennis," said Kuznetsova, who complained that abdominal muscle problems undermined her serve this weekend.

Schiavone served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Kuznetsova broke. The 2004 US Open champion then saved two match points in the tiebreaker. "She put me under a lot of pressure and I couldn't keep my serve," Schiavone said.

In the third set, Schiavone jumped ahead 4-1 before Kuznetsova climbed back into the match. Vesnina, a late substitute for Anna Chakvetadze, had eight aces against Santangelo.

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