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Zvonareva reigns in Pattaya

RUSSIAN top seed Vera Zvonareva overcame a tough challenge from a battling Sania Mirza to win the Pattaya Open final 7-5, 6-1 yesterday.

The world No. 5-ranked Russian had some difficulties handling her opponent's big forehands in the first set but was too strong in the second, clinching the trophy in one hour and 17 minutes in the Thai resort.

Zvonareva, an Australian Open semifinalist, charged into the match with a 5-2 lead in the first set but lost the next three games as Mirza fought back with her powerful forehand and sharp crosscourt winners.

"I didn't play aggressively enough and made a few errors," the 24-year-old Russian said. "But I lifted up my game from 5-5. I didn't let her play the way she liked to."

At 6-5, the Russian set up a second set point with a backhand winner and then forced a backhand error from the Indian to break Mirza's serve and win the set.

"In the second set, I found my rhythm," Zvonareva said.

She got a double break in the fourth and sixth games and won the match when Mirza hit a backhand wide.

Mirza acknowledged the quality of her opponent's game, while complaining of being jaded. "No excuses but I just wished I felt fresher. I had a long singles match on Saturday and then had to play the doubles. I felt tired."

The Indian, formerly ranked No. 27 but now 126th as she makes her way back from long-term wrist injuries, was encouraged by her strong start to 2009. She won the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi.

"I couldn't ask for a better way to start the year. I just came back to the tour at the Australian Open and won the mixed and I reached the final in my second tournament. I feel better and better each week."

Zvonareva won two titles in 2008, at Prague and Guangzhou. Mirza had been aiming to win her second WTA singles title after Hyderabad in 2005.

In Paris, Amelie Mauresmo reached the final of the Open GDF Suez with a 6-2, 0-6, 6-1 victory over second seed Jelena Jankovic on Saturday.

The Frenchwoman, who won the tournament in 2001 and 2006, next faces Olympic champion Elena Dementieva after the third seed from Russia went through when Serena Williams pulled out injured.

"I played two sets well but I also had a sudden feeling of exhaustion," said Mauresmo. "When I was 3-0 or 4-0 down in the second set I just let it go to have some strength for the third. In the first and third sets I was rigorous."

World No. 1 Williams withdrew from her match with a right knee injury and Dementieva had to make do with a practice session.

Mauresmo, who has been plagued by injuries and has dropped to 24th in the rankings after reaching No. 1 in 2004, broke serve in the fourth game against Jankovic.

She then saved a break point in the seventh game before taking the opening set when her opponent netted an easy backhand.

Jankovic hit back in stunning style, racing through the second set in just 17 minutes.

The Serb also broke serve in the first game of the third, only for Mauresmo to break straight back. The eighth-seeded Frenchwoman then held serve in a marathon 15-minute game, imploring the crowd to support her at one point, before sweeping through the set.


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