Hantuchova Wins Another at Indian Wells

By KEN PETERS
The Associated Press
Saturday, March 17, 2007; 10:23 PM

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Daniela Hantuchova won her second Pacific Life Open championship in five years Saturday _ and just her second tour title ever. Hantuchova, the 2002 champion at Indian Wells, defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4 in the final this time to end her long winless streak.

On the men's side, Rafael Nadal beat Andy Roddick 6-4, 6-3 in one semifinal, and Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 6-2, 6-3 in the other.

No. 18 Hantuchova, who upset Martina Hingis in the championship match for her only previous title, this time used steady, accurate groundstrokes and timely net play for the victory over No. 4 Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion.

Hantuchova, who also beat Hingis this year on her way to the final, obviously was elated to finally earn her second tour win.

At almost the same instant Kuznetsova's forehand sailed over the back line long on the final point, Hantuchova already was jumping and waving her arms in joy.

"I think all the best things in life are worth waiting for, moments like this," Hantuchova said. "I guess all the hard work and everything I had to go through makes the victory that much sweeter."

The 23-year-old Slovak dictated the rhythm of the match against Kuznetsova, a 21-year-old Russian who has won eight tour titles. Keeping the ball deep with hard groundstrokes, Hantuchova also made the most of her trips to the net, winning 11 of her 12.

"I had exactly the same feeling I had against Martina in 2002," Hantuchova said. "I just knew that I was going to enjoy myself out there. I was just so confident from the first point, and I didn't even think about the score."

The second-ranked Nadal showed there was quite a gap between him and No. 3 Roddick, at least on this hot, still afternoon in the desert. The Spaniard consistently won points by keeping the ball deep to Roddick's backhand for several exchanges, then driving forehand winners past the American.

Roddick often could only stand and watch as winners bounced just inside the line.

"I think I played (a) very, very complete match, for sure," Nadal said. "I knew the match (would) go quick, because when he serves, all points are quick.

"But I wasn't expecting 6-4, 6-3, that's for sure."

Said Roddick: "He came out and played super-aggressive, got great depth. I never felt comfortable out there. He picked a couple off his shoes running and the forehand and just crushed them up the line.

"I thought he played real well."

Although Roddick had 16 aces, a couple at 147 mph, Nadal seemed to have everything else going his way.

On one Roddick serve of 138 mph in the second set, Nadal whipped a forehand return across court that Roddick had no chance of getting. And when Roddick came to the net, Nadal usually came up with passing shots for winners.

Nadal converted three of 10 break point opportunities. Roddick had none.

The match was the third the pair have played. Roddick won in the second round of the U.S. Open in 2004, and Nadal beat him on clay in the Davis Cup final later that year.

Nadal, who won five times last year after capturing 11 titles in 2005, is looking for his first championship since the French Open last June, going a stretch of 12 tournaments without a title.

Murray, who tweaked his left ankle, cut his right knee and banged up his right hip when he took a tumble during a match the previous night, obviously was slowed against his Serbian opponent in the matchup of 19-year-olds. Murray, from Scotland, took a timeout to talk with a trainer after the fifth game of the second set, but continued to play.

He said he probably shouldn't even have started the match.

"I wanted to go out and try and play and maybe see if I could I could move OK," Murray said. "After the first couple of games, I kind of realized that when you can't change direction and when the movement _ generally the best part of your game _ is missing, it's quite hard to play."

Djokovic, who is friends with Murray, said it was difficult to watch him playing in pain.

"It's not easy to see your opponent really struggling, walking slowly, playing slowly, making a lot of mistakes," Djokovic said. "But I'm really happy to get through (to the final)."


© 2007 The Associated Press