Svetlana Kuznetsova won two matches in one day, her long three-set semifinal against Simona Halep and just hours later her final against Monica Puig, to win the Apia International Sydney for her 16th WTA career title.
It was an unlikely day from the start of the semifinals in Sydney on Friday. Rainy and blustery weather caused delays in both matches as Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova outplayed world number two Simona Halep and Monica Puig advanced due to a forfeit by opponent Belinda Bencic.
From the stats alone, Halep might appear the de facto victor, with 37 unforced errors to Kuznetsova’s 47 and the two players even in winners with 31 apiece. The difference, then, came from Kuznetsova’s aggressiveness and decision to take chances in a closely contended match which lasted two hours and 44 minutes and finished at 7-6(5) 4-6 6-3.
The former world number two wore Halep down with powerful, top spin-laden shots and a bold net game. A decisive moment came at 5-5 in the first set when the Russian forced Halep to stretch left for a ball, then charged the net and pushed a shot right past her in deep center court. Her strong forehand eventually overpowered Halep again in the third set.
Kuznetsova then went on to face dark horse qualifier Monica Puig in the final. In her own semifinal, the Puerto Rican jumped out 4-0 on Bencic before rain delayed the match. She increased her lead to 6-0 to claim the first set, but Bencic withdrew due to illness.
In the title match, Kuznetsova routed Puig 6-0 6-2 in 55 minutes, amazing us all with the level of tennis she displayed after what had already been a long day for her. At the Australian Open, the Russia is set to face Daniela Hantuchova in the first round. (photos: Jimmie48)