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imageINDIAN WELLS: Elena Vesnina capped a stellar Indian Wells campaign with a hard-fought 6-7 (6/8), 7-5, 6-4 triumph over fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sunday.

Playing in her first final at the elite Premier Mandatory level, world number 15 Vesnina battled through a tense three hours and one minute to subdue eighth-ranked Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion.

The triumph comes a year after Vesnina, 30, fell in the first round of qualifying at Indian Wells and capped a tournament that saw her down both Germany's soon-to-be number one Angelique Kerber and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.

For Kuznetsova, it was a third disappointment in as many finals at Indian Wells, this one coming a decade after she fell in back to back finals in 2007 and 2008.

A third set that, like the first two, featured multiple service breaks saw Kuznetsova take a 4-2 lead before Vesnina broke for 4-3 then won a marathon ninth game in which Kuznetsova saved four break points before Vesnina converted her fifth with a stinging service winner to find herself serving for the match.

After knocking a forehand wide on her first match point, she secured the victory when Kuznetsova's service return went long.

"She was up set and 4-1, then 4-2 in the third," Vesnina said. "She had so many break points on my serve. She was 30-Love up couple of times on her serves. And I always keep coming back. I stick there, you know.

"I was just not giving anything at that moment. I didn't think about the end of the match.

"And when I broke her at 4-All and went to serve for the match, I had this in my mind: I'm not going to give it. I went to serve and I was, like, I'm never going to lose this game."

For a time it seemed Kuznetsova's steadier play would win the day, but in the end it was Vesnina's aggression that paid off, even though her 49 unforced errors out-stripped her 46 winners.

"I felt like when I was playing, I didn't feel good today, because she was very aggressive, and I was a little bit out of my game," Kuznetsova said. "I was too far from the court, and I was running all the way, way behind, so the only thing I could do was defend.

"I was too passive," Kuznetsova said. "I think that's why I lost."

The victory continues Vesnina's rise of the last year. She reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2016 and is no stranger to the big stage in doubles, in which she captured Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.

In a first set featuring four breaks of serve, Kuznetsova gave Vesnina a set point with a double fault in the 10th game, but Vesnina sent a forehand wide and Kuznetsova escaped to hold serve.

She double-faulted herself on her first set point in the tiebreaker before Vesnina saved another set point with a service winner.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2017

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