Schiavone, Petrova to meet in Amelia final

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Italy's Francesca Schiavone earned a seventh chance at her first career tournament victory Saturday.

Schiavone advanced to another final when Svetlana Kuznetsova retired from the Bausch & Lomb Championships with a groin injury.

Schiavone, the No. 3 seed, will face top-seeded Nadia Petrova on Sunday. Petrova beat 15th-seeded Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-2.

Petrova won once last year and again this season. But for Schiavone, a tournament title has eluded her for nine years. So what would it mean?

"Something very personal," said Schiavone, who later retired from doubles competition because of abdominal pain but said she would be fine for the final. "To prove myself, to keep going and believe in myself. It's not just a trophy for me. It's all that I did to arrive there. It's the most beautiful present that I could receive."

She received some help Saturday.

Kuznetsova, seeded fifth, strained her right groin early in the match and got it wrapped tightly between sets. But the injury severely hampered the Russian's mobility.

Schiavone took advantage, forcing Kuznetsova to run back and forth across the court. Schiavone won the first set 7-6 (2) and was ahead 3-2 in the second when Kuznetsova called her trainer over for the second time and then called it quits.

"It was really hard to retire from this because I couldn't move and I was [down] 7-6, 3-2 or set and break," Kuznetsova said. "It's pretty disappointing. Imagine if I could move what could have happened. I had some easy balls. I just couldn't get my feet under it.

"If I cannot move it's very frustrating."

When the announcement was made, Schiavone kissed her hands, waved to the crowd and then jogged off the cushy, green clay court. Kuznetsova, meanwhile, painfully picked up her bag and limped to the locker room.

Kuznetsova was upset with Schiavone's reaction.

"She tried her best, maybe she played her best," Kuznetsova said. "She was defending, she was running all over the court. But I would never do this to somebody when I see that they cannot take a step. I always have respect for my opponent.

"Everybody's on the court the way they want to be. But I wouldn't do that. That's all right, but next time, it's going to be
different from my side."

Kuznetsova overcame a 3-0 deficit in the first set and won the next five games, but the injury made it almost impossible for her to take more than a couple of steps in either direction.

Kuznetsova's loss ended her nine-match winning streak. She beat Martina Hingis, Patty Schnyder, Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova to win the Nasdaq-100 last week in Key Biscayne and move to 10th in the world rankings.

She didn't have nearly as much competition at Amelia Island. Only two other players ranked in the top 10 made the trip, with three-time winner Lindsay Davenport and Mary Pierce pulling out last week with injuries.

The withdrawals left Petrova, a Russian, as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 7.

She played like it, too. After a slight hiccup in the second round, Petrova handled Virginia Ruano Pascual in the quarterfinals, then dominated the 19-year-old Safarova on a warm, windy Saturday.

Petrova forced Safarova, of the Czech Republic, into countless errors. It didn't help that Safarova had played three three-set matches to get to the quarterfinals, then knocked off Jill Craybas in a late match Friday.

"After four matches, I felt tired, but that's tennis," Safarova said. "I should have been ready."

Petrova advanced to the title match at Amelia Island for the first time. She reached the semifinals the last two years but lost both times to eventual champion Davenport.

"That's a very good improvement," Petrova said. "Hopefully, I can keep up my way like this all the way through the French Open."

Petrova, a power player who relies on her serve, has lost all four meetings against Schiavone, who prefers baseline rallies and drop shots.

The matchup will determine whether Schiavone gets her elusive tournament title.

"She's a very tough competitor," Petrova said. "She just doesn't give up at any stage of the match. She just goes for it and brings everything back. Either I have to play great tennis to beat her or I need to make the points shorter. Of course, serving well would help me a lot, too."