x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Svetlana Kuznetsova lays down gauntlet ahead of Dubai championship final

The Russian player progressed to her third summit clash in Dubai after beating Italy's Flavia Pennetta in the semi-final.

DUBAI // Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded 16th and without a WTA title since August, progressed to her third final at the Dubai Tennis Championship after beating Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-4 at the Aviation Club.

She then said that she is fast returning to the form that saw her reach a career-high of world No 2. The Russian, who has slipped to No 22 in the world, reached the final here in 2004 and 2008, but lost both times.

She will face Caroline Wozniacki today, who will regain the No 1 crown when the new WTA rankings are published tomorrow.

"I'm not sure what's going to be my ranking if I win or lose, but it doesn't really matter," said Kuznetsova, who will rise to world No 11 with victory tonight.

"What matters the most is my game. My game is back. Maybe not in the highest, highest level, but I'm competing against the best players and beating top-10 players and I'm comfortable on the court.

"I just want to go out there and to see how I can compare myself to No 1."

Despite trailing 3-1 in the opening set last night, for much of the match Kuznetsova was simply too fast, too powerful and too aggressive for her Italian opponent.

She said that she has no intention of changing her game plan ahead of tonight's match with Wozniacki.

"She is No 1 and I have nothing to lose," she said of her opponent.

"She is very tough and plays very good. I am going to have to win this match because she is not going to lose it. What I have to do is be aggressive. I have to stay calm and to play my game and just do less unforced errors."

The two players have met on five previous occasions, with Wozniacki edging the Russian with three wins, most memorably in the round of 16 at the 2009 US Open where the 20-year-old Dane reached her first major final.