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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuznetsova Dodges Loss To Qualifier at Pilot Pen

APKuznetsova, right, shaking Szavay's hand after Saturday's New Haven final.
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut -- Top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova won the Pilot Pen final Saturday when qualifier Agnes Szavay, 18, retired with a back injury while leading 6-4, 0-3.

James Blake beat close friend Mardy Fish 7-5, 6-4 to win the men's singles title.

It was Kuznetsova's 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-and-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."

The Hungarian was playing her eighth match in nine days and had battled 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."

The tournament was a veritable gimme for Kuznetsova, who won her third-round match when Francesca Schiavone dropped out with an ankle injury and advanced to the final when Elena Dementiyeva had a stomach ailment in their semifinal.

"It's really strange," Kuznetsova said. "The only thing I can say [is that] most of the time, 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. But Szavay said the pain had been building.

"I guess it was every point," she said. "It was worse and worse and just, it's very painful."

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 doubles competition earlier in the tournament, citing back problems.

It's the second straight year with a retirement in the final. Justine Henin won in 2006 when Lindsay Davenport retired in the middle of their match.

The men's side saw an all-American final between two good friends. Fish was playing in his first final of the year, while Blake was playing in his second in a week, after losing to Roger Federer in Cincinnati last Sunday.

Blake, who grew up in nearby Fairfield, considers the Connecticut Tennis Center his home court. He also won there in 2005.

But there were plenty of Fish supporters at the match, and as the players came on the court, the normal chants of "James, James, James," were replaced by "U.S.A., U.S.A."

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 cookout, 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 out-think yourself a little bit," he said.