Radwanska tops Hantuchova to reach San Diego final

August 7, 2010 07:31 PM
Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a forehand to Flavia Pennetta during their semifinal match
Agnieszka Radwanska will play in her first final in 10 months

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) -- No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland reached her first final in 10 months with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova at the Mercury Insurance Open on Saturday night.

Radwanska, ranked 10th in the world, used Hantuchova’s double fault in the seventh game for the only break of the first set. She then used her counterpunching game to capture the second set, which included a 20-minute seventh game in which Hantuchova saved seven match points.

"I was feeling good here and everything is working," Radwanska said. "I’ve played some good matches against some good players. Now, just one more."

This is Radwanska’s first trip to a final since October when she lost at Beijing to Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, who will again be her opponent on Sunday.

The unseeded Kuznetsova advanced to the championship match with a 6-4, 6-0 win over No. 5 seed Flavia Pennetta.

Radwanska flashed her entire arsenal of shots during the match, many coming in the marathon seventh game that featured 28 points, 11 deuces and a standing ovation from the crowd when it was done.

"She was serving very good on those (match) points," Radwanska said. "I was wondering if she could just miss a serve. I tried everything, but she was just better in that game. We just played every shot that is possible."

Hantuchova, down two breaks in the second set, played some of her best tennis during the game as she held serve to extend the match. Radwanska finally ended it in the next game on her eighth match point.

Radwanska was more consistent with 21 winners and only nine unforced errors, including just two in the second set. Hantuchova had more winners (26) but committed 36 unforced errors.

In the other semifinal match, Kuznetsova used her powerful forehand and took advantage of Pennetta’s weak serve to win nine of the final 10 games.

"I’m a little more comfortable to play her because she doesn’t overpower me," Kuznetsova said after improving to 4-0 against Pennetta.

Kuznetsova’s last title was her 6-4, 6-2 win over Radwanska at Beijing. Radwanska has not won a tournament in more than two years.

"It’s good that I make it to a final, but it’s not enough," Kuznetsova said. "Even winning a trophy is not enough, but it’s one step forward."

Kuznetsova continues her fight to regain her standing on the tour. After winning three times in 2009 to run her career total to 12, the two-time Grand Slam champion has had a rough 10 months.

This year, Kuznetsova had reached only one quarterfinal before this tournament. Three weeks ago, her ranking slipped to No. 21, the first time she was out of the Top 20 since February 2004.

"I lost my game," she said. "It took some time to sort things out. I want to be back and be strong. I don’t want to be back and be No. 12 or 15, that’s not my goal. I want to be higher and I believe I can do it."

The victory over Pennetta is expected to move Kuznetsova back into the Top 20. A win in the finals is projected to get her ranking to No. 17.

With the pair on serve in the closely contested first set, Kuznetsova and Pennetta traded service breaks in the eighth and ninth games that gave Kuznetsova a 5-4 lead.

But on Pennetta’s service game, the Italian hit a backhand long to hand the first set to Kuznetsova.

Pennetta’s serving game was sub-par in the first set as she made just 58 percent of her first serves. But it got even worse in the set when her percentage dipped to 24. Kuznetsova took advantage and steamrolled to the win.

"It’s not my favorite shot, of course," Pennetta said. "But when I am a little bit nervous and know I have to play really well with the serve, I start to get nervous and can’t get one in."

Pennetta, ranked 15th in the world, is projected to drop to No. 18. Pennetta played in her tour-high 54th singles match and, overall, has played in 97 combined matches between singles and doubles.