SYDNEY (Reuters) - Svetlana Kuznetsova rolled back the years with a ruthless 6-0 6-2 demolition of Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig to win her 16th WTA title at the Sydney International on Friday.
In 55 minutes of one-sided tennis, the 30-year-old former French and U.S. Open champion showed that her rivals should not take her lightly at next week's Australian Open, despite her current lowly ranking.
Kuznetsova's performance was all the more impressive given the Russian had already spent more than two hours on the court earlier on Friday completing her semi-final tussle with world number two Simona Halep, finally winning out 7-6(5) 4-6 6-3.
While that match, held over from Thursday after a thunderstorm wreaked havoc with the schedule at Olympic Park, was a hard-fought battle, the same could not be said of the final clash on Ken Rosewall Arena.
Eight years after her last appearance in the Sydney final, when she lost to Justine Henin, Kuznetsova was a ball of energy from the first serve to the double fault by Puig that handed her the title.
"It feels like I'm 16, it feels great. Everything went my way," Kuznetsova told reporters. "I thought I would be tired but I felt great. It was one of my best finals. I felt really comfortable."
The world number 25 strutted around the court firing winners from both sides and feasting on Puig's second serve to bring a shuddering halt to the Puerto Rican's fairytale run at Olympic Park.
It was not until the fourth game of the second set that the shell-shocked Puig was able to get on the scoreboard, her first service hold earning her a huge ovation from a sympathetic crowd.
Puig had played seven matches, including a quarter-final upset of ex-U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur, to get to the final but admitted she was simply no match for the clinical Russian.
"I played some amazing tennis this week so I'm really proud of what I've done," the world number 94 told reporters.
"She just did everything so well. It was her day. There wasn't much I could do ... The only answer I have is that she was the better player."
Kuznetsova, three-times a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, will take on Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova in the first round at Melbourne Park next week.
"You've seen me over so many years and I'm not the most consistent player but I do put a lot of effort into my pre-season," Kuznetsova said.
"The biggest thing I have to do is listen to myself. I never dreamed of winning (a Grand Slam title); it comes from hard work."
Editing by Peter Rutherford/Mark Heinrich