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Svetlana Kuznetsova - Russian Tennis Star

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On form Azarenka claims Miami crown

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3rd April, 2016

MIAMI -- Former No.1 Victoria Azarenka continues her climb back to the top, overpowering Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2 in the final to claim the Miami Open title and secure her return to the WTA Top 5.

Azarenka, a two-time champion here in Miami, won her third title of 2016 in dominating fashion without dropping a set. Even more impressive, her back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami complete the Sunshine Double, a feat last achieved 11 years ago.

Victoria Azarenka Victoria Azarenka
The on-form Belarusian, who has only lost one match all year, broke in Kuznetsova's opening service game and quickly held for a 2-0 lead. That lone hold of serve would turn out to be vital, as Azarenka was able to weather the seven consecutive breaks that followed and still hang on to the lead.

In the second set Azarenka's powerful game came together as she wore down Kuznetsova from the baseline, running the Russian all over the court. Azarenka kept up the intensity throughout the match, hitting 23 winners to Kuznetsova's 8 while Kuznetsova struck 22 unforced errors to her opponent's 18.

After Azarenka claimed the match and the Miami title in an hour and 17 minutes, Kuznetsova had nothing but praise for her in-form opponent in her runner-up speech.

"I'd like to congratulate Victoria for doing such a good job this year and in these four weeks," Kuznetsova said, delighting the Miami crowd by delivering the speech in both English and Spanish.

Azarenka was similarly effusive in her praise for Kuznetsova, who she's played nine times since 2007.

"I want congratulate Sveta for the great result," Azarenka said. "I know you've had a lot of ups and downs in your career and I'm so happy to see you again in top form producing some great tennis."

The Belarusian also had an emotional dedication for the win, her twentieth career title: "I want to dedicate this win to my family, for my parents, who I don't see very often but my parents taught me some really great things. They gave me roots so I always know where I come from and they gave me wings so I can fly, so I can be here. Thank you so much."

With the win, Azarenka also cements her position as No.1 on the Road To Singapore Leaderboard, leapfrogging Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber for the top spot.

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Kuznetsova first into Miami final

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1st April, 2016

MIAMI -- Former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova returned to the Miami Open final after a straight set win over Timea Bacsinszky on Thursday afternoon.

Svetlana Kuznetsova Svetlana Kuznetsova
It has been a taxing tournament for Kuznetsova, who had been taken to three sets in every round en route to the semifinals. However, against Bacsinszky she bucked the trend, completing a 7-5, 6-3 victory in a comparatively brisk one hour and 56 minutes.

"I am happy that I could hang in there and never let my hands down," Kuznetsova said afterwards. "I have not been feeling my best but I have been fighting every ball and just trying to run as much as I could. I enjoyed the fight and I'm happy I'm still able to play against the best in the world. I was praying to finish it in two sets so I would have a little more time to rest."

Ten years ago, a fresh-faced Kuznetsova defused Maria Sharapova to lift the Miami title, and she rolled back the years against Bacsinszky, playing with authority throughout. In an evenly contested opening set, it was the Russian that finished with a flourish, dragging her opponent to all corners of the court before guiding on overhead into the open space to close out the set.

Bacsinszky, meanwhile, was perhaps guilty of going for the lines too often, a couple of wayward backhands enabling Kuznetsova to break for a 4-2 lead in the second. Just as influential in her downfall was an inability to capitalize on her break opportunities, of which there were many. In the end, she spurned 12 break points, including four in the final game.

In the final Kuznetsova will face the winner of the evening blockbuster between No.2 seed Angelique Kerber and the in-form Victoria Azarenka. Victory there will take Kuznetsova back into the Top 10 for the first time in nearly six years.

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Kuznetsova tireless against Makarova

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30th March, 2016

MIAMI -- Svetlana Kuznetsova emerged the victor after a late night, two-hour and forty-three minute battle against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova for a spot in the Miami Open semifinals, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3.

While on paper the indefatigable Kuznetsova came into the match with all the advantages - she leads the head-to-head 5-1, has won the Miami title before and last round she knocked out defending champion Serena Williams - she was facing a monumental task against Makarova.

Would her fitness hold up or would all the time spent on court take a toll?

All of Kuznetsova's previous matches on her road to the quarterfinals had gone to three sets and lasted longer than two hours. Facing off against Makarova, her compatriot and Fed Cup teammate, Kuznetsova saw no reason to change the pattern while it's working, though it did take some extra motivation to keep the 30-year-old going.

"I told myself just keep fighting and keep running," Kuznetsova said afterwards. "I was feeling a little bit low on energy, so I was trying to keep myself going."

Things looked more straightforward for the 30-year-old as she went up 5-2 in the first set against Makarova. But it started to slip away from her as the fatigue began to creep up leaving her unable to run down her compatriot's shots. Makarova fought her way back to force a tiebreaker and win the first set.

"I lost a little bit of momentum in the first set when I had three set points and a 5-2 lead," Kuznetsova reflected after the match. "Then Ekaterina got on top and she played really well. I was just trying to hang in there and trying to serve better. That's it."

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Kuznetsova shocks Serena in Miami

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29th March, 2016

MIAMI -- Former World No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova recovered from a hotly contested opening set to earn her first victory over top seed Serena Williams since 2009, upsetting the 21-time Grand Slam champion in the fourth round of the Miami Open, 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-2.

"I'm really thrilled," Kuznetsova told Andrew Krasny during her on-court interview. "I'm sorry, fans who are disappointed that Serena's not going to keep playing, but for sure she'll be at more events than here. I'm really happy with my performance; I tried to stay at a good level the whole game, put as many balls back. I think I did that pretty well and I'm happy with the way I served today."

Svetlana Kuznetsova Svetlana Kuznetsova
Beginning the season with a title at the Apia International Sydney, the two-time Grand Slam champion hadn't defeated a reigning World No.1 since winning the French Open almost seven years ago and needed three sets to beat both Carina Witthoeft and Caroline Garcia just to reach the fourth round. Narrowly missed out on a one-set lead after dropping the tie-break 7-3, a strong service game to start the second set her up in good stead against the American, going on to win 10 straight points between the second and third sets.

Williams had reached the final in each of her two WTA appearances this season, but struggled to find her best form at a tournament she was looking to win for a ninth time. Earning two hard-foughts wins over Christina McHale and Zarina Diyas, she hit 43 winners on Monday but was undone by 50 unforced errors in the two hour match.

Kuznetsova was far more consistent throughout, hitting 27 winners to only 13 unforced and surviving a hiccup in the middle of the decider to serve out the upset on the first time of asking - starting the game with one of her eight aces.

"It's my profession; I play tennis and I have to do my job on the court. I was just focused on my game, just trying to do what I do best."

Into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009, Kuznetsova next plays the winner of No.12 seed Elina Svitolina and No.30 seed Ekaterina Makarova - neither of whom had made their WTA main draw debut when the Russian last won in Miami in 2006.

"I'm too old! It was 10 years ago. I've been on this court many times. I love playing on this stage; the fans in Miami are great. I love being back here and I'm really happy with my performance."

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Serena Williams into 4th round in Miami

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27th March, 2016

MIAMI -- Serena Williams won her 750th career match to stay on track for her ninth Miami Open title when she beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5 6-3 in the third round in Florida on Saturday.

The world No.1 improved her career record to 750-125, seventh on the all-time list and just three match wins behind Lindsay Davenport's 753. Martina Navratilova sits atop the all-time list with 1,442 wins.

The 34-year-old Williams will meet Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova for the 11th time in their careers in the fourth round. The 15th seed defeated France's Caroline Garcia 4-6 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

Unlike the last time they met, when Williams required 54 minutes and Diyas won just two games, the 22-year-old Kazakh gave the American some trouble in the heat and humidity of Miami.

Williams jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set, only to see Diyas rally and win three straight games but the 21-time grand slam champion steadied to close out the match.

"I think she called her coach and they used a different strategy," Williams said. "I was able to figure it out after a little bit. She played well, especially to be ranked 97th. She has a bright future because she's so young. But I really wanted to close it out."

Williams and Kuznetsova were joined in the fourth round by Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, Romanian Simona Halep, Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, Russian Ekaterina Makarova and wildcard Heather Watson of Great Britain.

Makarova, the 30th seed, upset eighth seeded Czech Petra Kvitova 6-4 6-4, while Bacsinszky did likewise to 16th seed Ana Ivanovic, beating the Serb 7-5 6-4.

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Venus falls in Indian Wells tennis return

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12th March, 2016

INDIAN WELLS -- Venus Williams has tumbled out of the Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in her first match at the event since 2001, falling 6-4 6-3 to Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara in California.

The 10th seed was eliminated on Friday night in front of a sparse, wind-blown crowd that returned after a rain-delay midway through the first set.

Williams played at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the first time since she and sister Serena and father Richard were booed and heckled after Venus withdrew from her semi-final against Serena because of an injury.

On Friday, Venus received standing ovations before and after her error-filled, second-round match.

"It's been a wonderful moment," she said. "Everyone could have picked up where they left off and it would have started over again, but everyone was welcoming. It was a great day."

Bothered by the gusty wind, she was most prominent of the upset victims.

Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, the No.3 seed, rallied from a 4-1 deficit to thwart Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 3-6 7-5, while two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the Czech No.8 seed, needed a third-set tiebreaker in a 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7-5) victory over Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.

No.11 seed Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic lost 6-4 6-4 to Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.

Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine upset Italian 15th seed Sara Errani 6-4 6-3, and 19th-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, last year's runner-up and the 2010 champion, rolled over Carina Witthoeft of Germany 6-1 6-3.

Jankovic set up a third-round match against American Coco Vandeweghe, a 6-4 6-3 winner over two-time grand slam champion and 16th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.

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Goerges crushes Kuznetsova as seeds tumble in Dubai

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15th February, 2016

DUBAI -- There were defeats for the two seeds in action on day one of the Dubai Tennis Championships, Svetlana Kuznetsova winning just one game.

Karolina Pliskova's hopes of repeating her 2015 run to the Dubai Tennis Championships final were ended on Monday as the sixth seed bowed out to Coco Vandeweghe in the first round.

Julia Goerges Julia Goerges
Pliskova was runner-up to Simona Halep 12 months ago, but exited at the first hurdle on this occasion as Vandeweghe - who also won when the players met at Wimbledon last year - kicked on after edging a first-set tie-break.

Two breaks of serve in the second set put the American in charge and, after fighting back from 15-40 to move 5-1 up, Vandeweghe enjoyed further success on the Pliskova serve to complete a 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 victory.

Eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova fared even worse, the Russian winning just one game in a 6-0 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Julia Goerges. A three-time finalist in Dubai, Kuznetsova lost the first nine games before finally getting on the board midway through set two.

Madison Brengle was another player to spring something of a surprise. Brengle, the world number 60, triumphed 6-4 7-5 against Ekaterina Makarova, who is 29 places higher in the rankings, and will now face Petra Kvitova in round two.

Germany's Andrea Petkovic dropped just three games as she eased past Camila Giorgi, while Carolina Garcia was similarly comfortable in beating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Vandeweghe's next opponent will be Kristina Mladenovic, who recorded a 6-2 7-6 (7-1) success against Lesia Tsurenko.

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Netherlands complete stunning win over Russia

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7th February, 2016

MOSCOW -- Kiki Bertens defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets in the opening reverse singles rubber in Moscow to send Netherlands through to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals for the first time since 1997.

"This is unbelievable. I don't think anyone expected that we could win this tie, perhaps we even didn't. It's an unbelievable feeling," said a delighted Bertens after the match.

It was always going to be a tall order for the 30-year-old St. Petersburg native who had played a marathon four-hour encounter against Richel Hogenkamp in Saturday's opening singles.

Kiki Bertens Kiki Bertens
Just over 12 hours later, the Russian would take to the court again and Berten's tactics were clear for all to see. The World No. 106 took every opportunity to move her opponent round the court with Kuznetsova understandably looking weary.

"Normally that is my game, but sometimes I make a few more mistakes, but I think I was playing good and aggressive and was using my forehand well and trying to move her around. I also had in my mind that yesterday she played a four hour match, so even if this was to go into a third [set] I would still be feeling good," Bertens added.

The Russian was trying to keep the points short and inadvisably tried to attempt a number of drop shots from the baseline. Unfortunately for her, the tactic failed to come off. Kuznetsova admitted she did not feel too tired despite Saturday's marathon match, but mentioned that luck was not on her country's side over the weekend.

"I was also ready to play long rallies, but the thing is that throughout this whole tie, everything was going to the side of Holland because everything - line calls, net cords, drop shots - everything was going perfectly for them. I was unable to play my best, but I gave one hundred percent out on the court," Kuznetsova said.

Bertens managed to get a break in the fourth game and never looked back. Her serve was excellent and Kuznetsova was unable to make any inroads. A second break in the sixth game made the first set all but a formality and Bertens would take it after Kuznetsova sent another attempted drop shot from the baseline into the net.

The Russian seemed to pick up her game in the second set and started to pose a few more questions for her Dutch opponent to answer. However, Bertens picked up a crucial break in the seventh game and sealed victory on her second match point, as Kuznetsova netted a forehand from the back of the court.

The 24-year-old is now an incredible 13 wins and one loss in Fed Cup singles matches - but agreed that this was by far the biggest Fed Cup win of her career.

"We are now among the last four countries in the Fed Cup, so it's just unbelievable," said Bertens. "We perhaps don't realise it yet. We have a few more months to realise it, and in April we are going to fight again for a place in the final."

Paul Haarhuis' team have now extended their Fed Cup winning streak to eight consecutive ties, a remarkable achievement for a team that does not have a single player currently ranked inside the Top 100.

» 2016 Fed Cup (Rus v Ned) coverage...

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Angelique Kerber stuns Serena for first major

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30th January, 2016

MELBOURNE -- Angelique Kerber pulled off an absolute shocker in the final of the Australian Open on Saturday night, upsetting Serena Williams to win her first Grand Slam title.

Going into the final, Williams was a heavy favorite - not only did she already have 21 Grand Slam titles to her name, including six Australian Opens, but Kerber was playing the first Grand Slam final of her career, and Williams had won the pair's last four meetings, all of them in straight sets as well.

Angelique Kerber Angelique Kerber
Kerber didn't really read the script, though. She was just too solid in the first set, drawing 23 unforced errors from the Williams racquet and breaking twice to take it, 6-4. Williams rebounded well - she powered to a 4-1 lead in the second set, eventually taking it, 6-3, to push the match to a third.

Kerber never stopped believing, though. She built a 2-0 lead in the third set, and after Williams caught up to 2-all, Kerber raced out to a 5-2 lead. The No.1-seeded Williams very nearly caught up again - she won the next two games and was a point away from 5-all - but the No.7-seeded Kerber had just enough gas left in the tank to finally close the 21-time Grand Slam champion out, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Kerber not only walks away with her first major, but she's just the second German woman in the Open Era to win a major, after Steffi Graf, who won 22 majors in her legendary career. She also preserved Graf's Open Era record - Williams would have tied it had she won the title on Saturday night.

There's another big first - having saved match point in her first round against Misaki Doi here, Kerber's the first woman in the Open Era to win a major having saved a match point in the first round. She'll also surge to a new career-high ranking of No.2 now, behind, of course, Williams.

Williams was first to take the microphone at the trophy ceremony. "Angie, congratulations. You really deserved it - let me be the first to congratulate you," she said. "I hope you enjoy this moment."

And with a great big smile on her face, Kerber followed Williams to the podium.

"First of all, I would like to say congratulations to Serena," the German said. "You're really an inspiration for so many people and young tennis players. You've created history. You're a champion. You're also an unbelievably great person. So congratulations to everything you've already done.

"When I was match point down, I actually had one leg in the plane back to Germany. I got a second chance, and I took that chance to be here in the finals to play against Serena. I'm really honored to be in this final and to win it - my dream came true tonight," she said, fighting back tears of joy.

"My whole life I was working really hard, and now I'm here, and I can say I'm a Grand Slam champion, and it sounds really crazy," Kerber added. "These have been the best two weeks of my life."

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Fed Cup 2016: First round nominations announced

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28th January, 2016

The ITF has announced the nominations for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group and World Group II first round ties taking place on 6-7 February.

Six of the world's Top 10 and 13 of the Top 20 will be in action next weekend as the first round of the competition gets underway all over the globe.

World Group

Defending champions Czech Republic have nominated a strong side to make the trip to Cluj-Napoca in Romania next weekend. The Czechs will play Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova and Denisa Allertova.

Petra Kvitova Petra Kvitova
World No. 2 Simona Halep is a surprise inclusion for Romania. Halep, who lost in the opening round of the Australian Open, was due to have nose surgery but she has delayed the procedure in order to compete in the World Group opener. She will be joined by Irina-Camelia Begu, Monica Niculescu and Andreea Mitu.

Switzerland is another nation that will look to put in a good showing on foreign soil as it makes its way to Leipzig for the first round tie against Germany. The Swiss will be led into battle by Belinda Bencic and Timea Bacsinszky, with Viktorija Golubic and Martina Hingis completing the line-up.

Team Germany will be no pushovers, however, as Australian Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber will look to lead a strong side to victory against the Swiss. Kerber will be joined by Andrea Petkovic, Julia Goerges and Annika Beck.

Amelie Mauresmo will look to the same duo that stunned Italy in the opening round of Fed Cup last year as France takes on the Azzurri in Marseille. Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia were unstoppable 12 months ago and they will be supported by Pauline Parmentier and Fed Cup debutante Oceane Dodin.

Corrado Barazzutti, meanwhile, has named a mix of experience and youth by calling on Sara Errani, Camila Giorgi, Francesca Schiavone and Martina Caregaro for Italy's side to face France in Marseille.

Last year's defeated Fed Cup finalists, Russia, have once again put forward a tough team to open their 2016 campaign with world No. 5 Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ekaterina Makarova and Daria Kasatkina all included in Anastasia Myskina's line-up for the tie against the Dutch.

Sharapova requires one more Fed Cup appearance for Russia in order to be eligible to represent her country at the Olympics in August.

The head of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpishchev, suggested Sharapova was unwilling to play for Russia next week and told Russia's R-Sport agency that ''if we lose and she doesn't play, that means she won't play at the Olympics.''

World Group newcomers Netherlands might not have any big name players on their team but they have shown time and time again that they are not to be underestimated in Fed Cup. Kiki Bertens will lead a side in Moscow that also contains Richel Hogenkamp, Cindy Burger and Arantxa Rus.

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Kuznetsova joins list of women's seeds to depart early

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20th January, 2016

MELBOURNE -- Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko has shocked 23rd seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in their second round Australian Open clash. World No.92 Bondarenko broke through for her first win over the Russian with a 6-1, 7-5 victory.

It looked like Bondarenko would wrap it up comfortably, leading 4-1 in the second, but Kuznetsova, a two-time grand slam champion, clawed her way back to 5-5. Bondarenko, who took time off the tour to have a daughter in 2013, broke her opponent and then served out the match.

The result matches Bondarenko's previous best performance at Melbourne Park, reaching the third round in 2009. She won the Australian Open women's doubles with her sister Alona in 2008.

Earlier Maria Sharapova breezed into the third round with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The Russian veteran, seeded five at Melbourne Park, made short work of the world No.105.

She raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set before wrapping it up in 38 minutes and completed the second in similar style.

Sharapova won the Open in 2008 and finished runner-up last year.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova's dream day in Sydney

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15th January, 2016

SYDNEY -- It was a dream day for Svetlana Kuznetsova on Friday, as she not only scored her biggest win in six and a half years against Simona Halep in a rain-delayed semifinal, but she then played a near-flawless final against Monica Puig to win the Premier-level Sydney International.

Just hours after completing a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 semifinal victory against No.2-ranked, No.1-seeded Halep - her biggest win since defeating then-World No.1 Dinara Safina in the final of the 2009 French Open - Kuznetsova completely overpowered Puerto Rican qualifier Puig for the Sydney title, 6-0, 6-2.

Svetlana Kuznetsova Svetlana Kuznetsova
Kuznetsova won more than twice as many points as Puig in the 55-minute demolition, 53 to 23.

"It's great. I mean, honestly, I didn't expect this, but I've also never gone into a tournament thinking about winning, never even once," Kuznetsova said after the match. "I just went out there and performed, and everything went my way. Now I just want to keep focused for the Australian Open."

The Russian, who picked up her 16th WTA title - a haul that includes two Grand Slams - was asked how she recovered so well after a near-three-hour match against Halep to play so well against Puig.

"Actually somebody asked me before the match, the supervisor, 'How do you feel?' Everybody probably thinks because I'm 30 that I'm really old and need to pick myself up. But I felt great. I felt better than most days here. First matches of the year you're sore, but after you get going, it's great."

She was also asked whether she thinks it's possible to win another Grand Slam title: "I never dreamed of winning one. I never thought of winning one. It just happens behind hard work, effort, and just having pleasure playing tennis. If I have this opportunity and I can take it, I would love to, of course. But if not, my life isn't going to end. I love the game. It's great I can still win titles."

Puig still has a lot to celebrate - she reached the first Premier final of her career in Sydney.

"There wasn't really too much I could do. I definitely ran around the court and tried to get every single ball I could back, but the only answer I have today is that she was the better player," Puig commented. "I had an incredible week coming through qualifying, my first time here in Sydney, and I made my first final of a Premier tournament. Overall it was a very good week and I'm very happy about it. I'm really not going to get disheartened about this final. She just played unbelievable."

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