Mon, Aug 27, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Blake beats Fish to win Pilot Pen

CUT SHORT Svetlana Kuznetsova won the women's title when her opponent, Agnes Szavay, retired in the second set because of a back injury she had been battling all week

AP, NEW HAVEN, Connecticut

James Blake returns a backhand to Mardy Fish, unseen, in their men's singles final at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

James Blake beat close friend Mardy Fish 7-5, 6-4 on Saturday to win an all-American final at the Pilot Pen.

Top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova won the women's title when 18-year-old qualifier Agnes Szavay retired with a back injury while leading 6-4, 0-3.

While Fish was playing in his first final of the year, Blake was playing in his second in a week. He lost to Roger Federer in Cincinnati the previous Sunday.

Blake, who grew up in nearby Fairfield, considers the Connecticut Tennis Center his home court, and also won here in 2005, but there were plenty of Fish fans too.

The pair, who live near each other, practice together, play golf together and once won the egg toss together at a Blake family July Fourth celebration, had only played twice before on tour, splitting those matches.

"This might be bragging rights for a while," Blake said. "It's tough, because you really want to see him doing well too."

There were five breaks in the first set as both struggled with their service game. But up 6-5 after a break, Blake found his serve, won the set and quickly went up 4-1 in the second. Fish fought back to 3-4, but could not get the equalizer.

Fish said it might have been a case of knowing his friend's game too well.

"You think they know what you're going to do, so you know that they think you know what they're going to do, and you kind of outthink yourself a little bit," he said.

In the women's draw, Kuznetsova won her first title of the year on her fifth attempt.

"Finally, it feels good," said Kuznetsova, who lost at Doha, Indian Wells, Berlin and Rome, and is 9-11 in WTA tour finals. "I was playing some good tennis the past weeks when I made it to the final, but then I couldn't make it in the final."

Szavay was playing her eighth match in nine days, and had been battling back problems most of the week.

"At the beginning it was just a little muscle pain and nothing serious, and day by day it was worse and worse," she said.

Kuznetsova won her third-round match when Francesca Schiavone dropped out with an ankle injury and advanced to the final when Elena Dementieva had a stomach ailment in their semi-final.

"It's really strange," Kuznetsova said. "The only thing I can say, most of the times, I've been winning. Today was the closest match, like I was close to losing. I was kind of getting my game back during the match, then she got tired."

Szavay led 5-3 in the first set when Kuznetsova hit a crosscourt shot. Running for a backhand, the Hungarian reached back to return the shot and immediately grabbed her back.

She took a medical timeout during the next changeover, and received more treatment between sets. But it became clear after three games of the second set that she could not continue.

The 41st-ranked Szavay also retired from the doubles earlier in the tournament, citing back problems.

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