Dementieva wins Dubai title
Elena Dementieva produced a major surprise when she captured the ninth title of her career with a victory over her Russian compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Dubai Open.
Not only did Dementieva overcome a strong favourite, the second seeded former US Open champion, but achieved her triumph as an unseeded player in a field containing almost every leading woman in the game.
It was Dementieva's first visit to the money-laden Gulf tournament and she surprised herself with an instant success which suggested that the 26-year-old from Moscow has recovered from the rib injury which kept her out for nine weeks last year and can work her way back up the world's top ten.
"Now I realise how good I can be on the court," she said.
Her win, she said, was for her mother, Vera.
"All I have done in my life - it's for her," Dementieva said.
"I'm so glad she's here to share it with me. I'm so happy for her. To see her smiling is a pleasure for me."
The victory was a triumph for superb ground strokes, fine court coverage, and a developing ability to mix up the pace as well as applying withering speed to the ball. But it was a patchy match with 14 breaks of serve.
It was a particularly indifferent first set with seven breaks in ten games. Dementieva's serve was very vulnerable but Kuznetsova was strangely unable to convert her chances after taking a 2-0 lead.
The second seed had game points in both the next two games but instead of enjoying the cushion of a 4-0 lead which might have allowed her a relaxed context in which to open up with her big drives, she found herself at 2-2, and then 2-3.
She began to make progress with her greater weight of shot in the next three games, attacking Dementieva's vulnerable second delivery and beginning to choose more selectively her moments to get to the net.
The set finished indifferently with two scrappy breaks of serve, but the second set began more tidily.
By now Dementieva was serving better, getting more height with the toss and with the hitting action than she used to, holding twice and breaking Kuznetsova twice to lead 4-1.
She nearly got to 5-1 but there was a mini-revival from the Kuznetsovsa which got her back to within a couple of points of parity before Dementieva levelled the match at a set-all.
This gave her a momentum which she pushed on to take five games in a row, reaching 3-0 in the final set. She did so playing more subtlety, mixing up the pace more and extracting driving errors from Kuznetsova.
It was then that the former US Open champion made a mini-revival which might have turned the match around.
She held serve for the first time in three tries, was handed a break-back when Dementieva twice double-faulted, and got to within a point of three-all.
The next point Kuznetsova lost was crucial. She worked to get a short reply from Dementieva, but then found the net with a forehand drive from mid-court.
Within two points Dementieva had broken again for 4-2, and within five minutes she had served for 5-2 as the momentum swung entirely around again.
Kuznetsova acknowledged Dementieva was an outstanding player who may challenge again for Grand Slam titles, but was felt her own level had dropped lower and lower.
"I had my opportunities but I am very disappointed that I couldn't take them,' she said.