INDIAN WELLS, California -- Svetlana Kuznetsova handed Maria Sharapova her first defeat of 2008 on Friday to set up a clash with top-seed Ana Ivanovic in the final of the Pacific Life Open.
Kuznetsova has reached her second successive Pacific Life final after ending Sharapova's winning streak.
Second seed Kuznetsova beat fourth seed and fellow-Russian Sharapova 6-3 5-7 6-2 to return to the final of the Masters Series tournament for the second straight year.
She will play Ivanovic in the final after the Serb defeated third-seeded compatriot Jelena Jankovic 7-6 6-3.
Last year, Kuznetsova finished runner-up to Daniela Hantuchova, whose title defense was halted by Sharapova at the quarterfinal stage.
That victory took Sharapova's record in 2008 to 18-0 -- a sparkling run that included her Australian Open triumph as well as a victory in the WTA tournament in Doha last month.
Kuznetsova, 22, is in search of her first WTA title since New Haven last August, but she booked her third final of the year after reaching the championship matches in both Sydney and Dubai.
After dropping the first set, Sharapova gained an early break in the second en route to a 4-1 lead.
Kuznetsova broke back in the seventh game, but Sharapova broke her again in the final game as Kuznetsova double-faulted on set point.
Kuznetsova bounced back to break Sharapova's serve in the first game of the third set, broke again for 4-1 and served out the match with a love game.
"I thought we both didn't play first set well," Kuznetsova said, adding that her chances in the second were thwarted by her own defensive stance.
"I'm not a player who has to defend so much as I did at the end of the second set," she said. "That's probably why I lost it."
Kuznetsova believed three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova was below her best, and her opponent agreed. "I was playing with a much slower pace than I normally play with. I wasn't going for my shots as I normally do, and I wasn't seeing the ball that good," Sharapova said.
Ivanovic, whose runner-up finish to Sharapova at the Australian Open propelled her to number two in the world, posted her fifth victory over Jankovic in six meetings.
Jankovic failed to recover from a 0-6 deficit in the first-set tiebreaker, and surrendered her serve in the third game of the second set.
Ivanovic broke her again in the ninth game to complete her victory. E-mail to a friend
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