Safina defeats Kuznetsova to claim Rome title

ROME: World number one Dinara Safina defeated Russian compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday to claim the WTA Rome claycourt International title here.

Safina never looked in trouble as she stormed to victory in an hour and a half as her seventh-seeded opponent paid for a string of unforced errors.

The top seed also gained revenge for her 6-4, 6-3 defeat to Kuznetsova in the final of last week's Stuttgart Open.

It was Safina's first title of the season in her fourth final having also been beaten in the Australian Open and Sydney finals.

Safina, 23, also won her first title as the world number one, a honour she only achieved on April 20.

But while she will be delighted with her victory, the truth was that Kuznetsova handed it too her with 30 unforced errors to just 16 by Safina.

Having lost the first set in her previous three matches before digging deep to fight back, Safina admitted it was pleasing to have a less complicated match.

"Finally I won the first set," she sighed. "Today she was giving away more unforced errors than she usually does.

"I also played a little bit better. I was trying to get her off the baseline because she feels very confident there. "But when she had some chances she was really missing - a lot. In some moments I had to say: 'thank you very much'." The world number eight also took only two of 11 break point opportunities while Safina converted five of her nine chances.

Kuznetsova admitted she had brought the festive season forward during the final.

"Last week I was dictating the game, I was serving well and I was not doing that many unforced errors," she said.

"I was doing too much and sometimes not doing anything. So it was like a little bit like Christmas today. I was giving away too many presents.

"Especially given that it was a final, she would not give it to me. I had to fight my way through." Kuznetsova's erratic play meant this result rarely looked in doubt despite a series of breaks in the opening set before Safina sealed it with a smash.

Safina had a match point on the Kuznetsova serve at 5-1 but the seventh seed showed good speed to reach a Safina drop shot and loop a backhand beyond her opponent to claim the point.

She held serve and then took a 40-15 lead on the Safina serve but the world number one saved the first break point with a blistering backhand winner and the second with a service winner.

A return error from Kuznetsova gave Safina a second match point which she wasted with a netted forehand at the end of a long rally.

However, two more return errors from Kuznetsova proved enough for Safina to lift this title for the first time.

She had reached the final in 2006, losing to Martina Hingis, while Kuznetsova was also runner-up here a year later when Jelena Jankovic won.