Daniilidou wins Moorilla Hobart International

SYDNEY: World No. 1 Justine Henin claimed her 40th career title and stretched her winning streak to 28 matches with a three-set victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Medibank International on Friday.

The tenacious Belgian fought back from dropping the opening set to beat her closest ranking rival, the second-seeded Russian, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in 2 hours 18 minutes.

The victory was Henin’s third Sydney title, having won here previously against Amelie Mauresmo in 2004 and Francesca Schiavone in 2006.

The win, coming just days before the start of the Australian Open in Melbourne, also extended Henin’s advantage over Kuznetsova to 16-2 in career match-ups. Henin has now won all her six WTA finals against the world No. 2.

Henin lost her service without taking a point in the second game of the third set, but Kuznetsova did the same two games later to allow the Belgian player to pull back on serve at 3-3.

Henin broke Kuznetsova’s serve at 4-4 in the third set, then held serve and won on her first match point.

Tursunov in final

Earlier, Russian Dmitry Tursunov and Australian Chris Guccione scored semifinal victories to advance to the men’s final.

Tursunov beat France’s Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 7-6 (4) while Guccione defeated Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4.

It will be Guccione’s first ATP Tour final and also his first match against Tursunov, the California-based Russian. It is the first Sydney men’s final since 2000 without seeded players.

“It’s the perfect start to the year really — confidence beating those top players and match practice before the Aussie Open,” Guccione said. “I hung in there with my serve and took the opportunity at the end when it came.”

Tursunov felt fortunate to have beaten Santoro.

“With a player like Fabrice, it is very hard to play your best tennis,” Tursunov said.

“His strength is to make you play as bad as humanly possible. With him you have just got to take a win in any way.”

The Russian said he’s aware of the left-hander Guccione’s big service game.

“It’s expected that he’s going to cruise on his serve most of the games,” Tursunov said. “I’m just going to have to try to guess a little bit and hopefully I get it right and connect with the ball.”

Ankle injury

At Hobart, Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou won the Moorilla Hobart International on a walkover when Russian second seed Vera Zvonareva pulled out with an ankle injury. World No. 42 Daniilidou won her fifth WTA title without hitting a shot.

Zvonareva rolled her left ankle during practice and after receiving treatment she withdrew from the final.

The Russian World No. 23 will travel to Melbourne on Saturday for a scan and it is not known if she will play in next week’s Australian Open. Zvonavera is drawn to face Japan’s Ai Sugiyama in the first round of the year’s first Grand Slam

Ferrero in title clash

At Auckland, Former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero moved within sight of his first ATP title since 2003 when he beat French underdog Julien Benneteau to reach the Heineken Open final on Friday.

The Spaniard, currently ranked 24, set up a final with Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber as he won 6-3, 6-4, ending Benneteau’s run which included the scalps of sixth seed Nicolas Almagro and defending champion David Ferrer.

Ferrero had to fight hard to overcome Benneteau but broke in the eighth game as he took the first set with greater accuracy and power in his groundstrokes.

“Today I went to the court to play my game, to be aggressive,” said the former French Open champion.

Kohlschreiber, the seventh seed, will be appearing in just his second ATP final after beating fourth seed Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-2, 6-1 in 65 minutes.

Monaco hit a number of unforced errors and had his serve broken six times in his first loss in three encounters with the German.

The results:

At Sydney: ATP & WTA Medibank International: Women: Final: Justine Henin bt Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Men: Semifinals: Chris Guccione bt Radek Stepanek 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4; Dmitry Tursunov bt Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 7-6(4).

At Auckland: ATP Heineken Open: Semifinals: Philipp Kohlschreiber bt Juan Monaco 6-2, 6-1; Juan Carlos Ferrero bt Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-4.

At Hobart: WTA Moorilla Hobart International: Final: Eleni Daniilidou bt Vera Zvonareva, walkover

At Melbourne: Kooyong Classic: Semifinal: Marcos Baghdatis bt Fernando Gonzalez 6-2, 7-5. Fifth-place playoff: Andy Murray bt Brydan Klein 6-2, 7-6(7). — Agencies

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