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Kuznetsova steamrolls Sharapova

Svetlana Kuznetsova cruised past fourth seeded compatriot Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 to win the Miami hardcourt title.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2006 18:26 IST

Former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova cruised past fourth seeded Russian countrywoman Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 to win the 6.9 million-dollar WTA and ATP Miami hardcourt title on Saturday.

Kuznetsova capped the one hour, 30 minute match with her fourth ace to post her biggest victory since capturing the women's singles crown at the 2004 US Open.

"I have been working so hard, and I deserve to be here," Kuznetsova said. "I knew I broke her, and I broke her again. I just wanted to stay every ball in the match and give my best and see what I can have out there.

The 20-year-old Kuznetsova was in complete control and said her game plan against Sharapova was to be aggressive and change the pace.

She converted three-of-six break chances in the first set and raced to a 3-1 lead. "I had to get inside the court more. I was a bit defensive at times so I just tried to play my game," Kuznetsova said.

It marked the sixth career singles title for the 12th seeded Kuznetsova, who upset the world's top ranked player, Amelie Mauresmo of France, in straight sets in the semi-finals.

Earlier in the tournament she saved a match point against resurgent Martina Hingis.

The win propels Kuznetsova back into the top 10 in the world rankings (10th) with American Venus Williams slipping to 11th.

Kuznetsova said changing her mindset during the tough rallies has helped her win more points.

"I feel pretty confident on the court now," she said. "Before I was trying to overhit the ball.

"Now I am just playing like half my power and the ball seems to go pretty fast. I think why do I have to hit is so hard? So I just put less pressure on me, and I put the ball back and it is pretty hard for my opponent to play."

Kuznetsova said another reason she is playing so well is that the distractions, that used to zap her game, are no longer bothering her.

"When I was a kid I was always thinking about the planes and birds overhead and I would never win a match," Kuznetsova said. "During the first set this (circling plane) was pretty annoying. But I knew I had to forget about it and just play."

Kuznetsova won her first title first since Bali in 2004 and improved to 3-2 lifetime against Sharapova.

"It was tough," Sharapova said of the final. "I couldn't put two points together. I was tired from my previous match, and now I need some time off."

Sharapova reached the final after 22nd seeded Tatiana Golovin retired in the third set on Thursday with a left ankle injury.

Sharapova was sluggish early, losing serve to fall behind in the first set and she never recovered.

It was the second consecutive year that Sharapova lost the final here and she also saw her 11-match win streak snapped.

"She was able to come back from tough points and play a few more," Sharapova said of Kuznetsova. "I was just not able to keep up with that pace and that was the key."

First Published: Apr 02, 2006 10:15 IST