New Haven: August 15-23

August 25, 2007 10:19 PM


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- James Blake beat close friend Mardy Fish 7-5, 6-4 Saturday to win an All-American final at the Pilot Pen.

Top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova won the women's title when qualifier Agnes Szavay retired with a back injury while leading 6-4, 0-3.

While Fish was playing in his first final of the year, Blake was playing in his second in a week. He lost to Roger Federer in Cincinnati last Sunday.

Blake, who grew up in nearby Fairfield, considers the Connecticut Tennis Center his home court, and had won here in 2005.

But their were plenty of Fish supporters at this match, and as the players came on the court the normal chants of "James, James, James," were replaced by "USA, USA."

There were five breaks in the first set as both men struggled with their service game. But up 6-5 after a break, Blake found his serve, won the set and quickly went up 4-1 in the second. Fish fought back to 3-4, but could not get the equalizer.

"I'd rather play him and lose to him than anybody else," Fish said. "James is my best friend."

This is the second time two Americans have gone for a title this year. Andy Roddick beat John Isner in the other, three weeks ago in Washington.

Fish made the semifinals in Auckland in January and Memphis in February, but has been bothered by knee problems most of the season.

In the women's draw, Kuznetsova won her first title of the year on her fifth attempt.

"Finally, it feels good," said Kuznetsova, who lost at Doha, Indian Wells, Berlin and Rome, and is 9-11 in WTA Tour finals.

"I was playing some good tennis the past weeks when I made it to the final, but then I couldn't make it in the final."

Szavay was playing her eighth match in nine days, and had been battling back problems most of the week.

"At the beginning it was just a little muscle pain and nothing serious, and day by day it was worse and worse," she said.

Kuznetsova won her third-round match when Francesca Schiavone dropped out with an ankle injury and advanced to the final when Elena Dementieva had a stomach ailment in their semifinal.

"It's really strange," Kuznetsova said. "The only thing I can say, most of the times, I've been winning. Today was the closest match, like I was close to lose. I was kind of getting my game back during the match, then she got tired."

Szavay led 5-3 in the first set when Kuznetsova hit a crosscourt shot. Running for a backhand, the Hungarian reached back to return the shot and immediately grabbed her back.

But Szavay said the pain had been building before that shot.

"I guess it was every point," she said. "It was worse and worse and just, it's very painful."

She took a medical timeout during the next changeover, and received more treatment between sets.

But it became clear after three games of the second set that she could not continue.

The 41st-ranked Szavay also retired from doubles competition earlier in the tournament, citing back problems.

It's the second straight year of a retirement in the final. Justine Henin won in 2006 when Lindsay Davenport retired in the middle of their match.