Former champ Kuznetsova sweats out U.S. Open win

By Matt Majendie

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova booked her passage into the second round of the U.S. Open with a steamy 6-2 4-6 6-1 victory over Kimiko Date Krumm Tuesday.

But the 25-year-old Russian, who won the tournament in 2004 and reached the final in 2007, was far from convincing during the one-hour, 56-minute match.

Her superior groundstrokes gave her the first set but wayward shot selection combined with some intelligent tactical play from Japan's Date Krumm saw the match go to a final set.

Both players, sweating heavily in the New York midday sun, struggled to find any rhythm on serve in the decider but Kuznetsova was eventually rewarded for the more attacking approach.

"That was a very tough match - she plays a very different game to everyone I've ever played before," said Kuznetsova of her opponent. "I know Dinara Safina lost to her twice and she's uncomfortable to play against.

"But for me it was nice to play her because I can play any type of game and it's fun to do different sorts of things."

Kuznetsova admitted it was too early to judge her form in the tournament but, when asked to look back on her 2004 triumph, she said: "I don't even remember really. Every year is just a new year."

Despite that, there were glimmers that the number 11 seed was returning to her Flushing Meadows form of six years ago in the final games of the match.

The former world number two, who ended a 10-month wait for a tournament win earlier this month in San Diego, increasingly mixed some heavy hitting from the back of the court with some fine touches at the net.

For the opening two sets, though, Date Krumm, who turns 40 next month and was bidding to become the third oldest woman to win a match in the Open era, boasted the better shot selection, but she tired as the contest approached the two-hour mark.

The two-time U.S. Open quarter-finalist, who returned to the sport for last year's Australian Open following a 13-year hiatus, played throughout with a heavily strapped left thigh.

The world number 51, married to German racing car driver Michael Krumm, did not look unduly concerned by the injury but just could not match her opponent's lasting power.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)