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Vesnina beats Kuznetsova to win Indian Wells WTA title

AFP logoAFP 19/3/2017
Elena Vesnina of Russia plays a backhand against Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia on March 19, 2017 in Indian Wells, California © Provided by AFP Elena Vesnina of Russia plays a backhand against Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia on March 19, 2017 in Indian Wells, California

Elena Vesnina capped a stellar Indian Wells campaign with a hard-fought 6-7 (6/8), 7-5, 6-4 triumph over fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sunday.

Playing in her first final at the elite Premier Mandatory level, world number 15 Vesnina battled through a tense three hours and one minute to subdue eighth-ranked Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion.

The triumph comes a year after Vesnina, 30, fell in the first round of qualifying at Indian Wells and capped a tournament that saw her down both Germany's soon-to-be number one Angelique Kerber and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.

For Kuznetsova, it was a third disappointment in as many finals at Indian Wells, this one coming a decade after she fell in back to back finals in 2007 and 2008.

A third set that, like the first two, featured multiple service breaks came down to marathon ninth game, in which Kuznetsova saved four break points before Vesnina converted her fifth with a stinging service winner to find herself serving for the match.

After knocking a forehand wide on her first match point, she secured the victory when Kuznetsova's service return went long.

The victory continues Vesnina's rise of the last year. She reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2016 and is no stranger to the big stage in doubles, in which she captured Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.

In a first set featuring four breaks of serve, Kuznetsova gave Vesnina a set point with a double fault in the 10th game, but Vesnina sent a forehand wide and Kuznetsova escaped to hold serve.

Elena Vesnina of Russia lifts the trophy after defeating compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women's singles final at the WTA Indian Wells Masters on March 19, 2017 © Provided by AFP Elena Vesnina of Russia lifts the trophy after defeating compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women's singles final at the WTA Indian Wells Masters on March 19, 2017

She double-faulted herself on her first set point in the tiebreaker before Vesnina saved another set point with a service winner.

Kuznetsova finally sealed the set with the help of a favorable netcord bounce after an hour and 11 minutes.

Vesnina looked a little rattled as Kuznetsova stormed through the first two games of the second set.

But she slowed Kuznetsova's progress with a break for 2-1 before another break and a hold from Kuznetsova put Kuznetsova up 4-1.

Vesnina then won four straight games to find herself serving for the set. She didn't get a whiff of a set point as Kuznetsova closed out yet another service break with two crisp forehand winners.

But Vesnina responded with a break of her own and wouldn't waste her next chance, firing an ace on her first set point to send it to a third.

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