Hantuchova earns Madrid place with Linz victory

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LINZ, Austria, Oct 28 (Reuters) Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova defeated Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 6-4 6-2 today to win the Linz Open.

Victory also earned her the final place in the eight-player field for the WTA Championships in Madrid from November 6.

Hantuchova ended the race with the same number of points as Russian Maria Sharapova, who also qualified when Venus Williams withdrew after suffering dizziness at the US Open. The American is still undergoing tests to determine the cause.

It was Hantuchova's fourth final of the year and her second title, after she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova to win Indian Wells in March.

''It can't get any better,'' Hantuchova told reporters. ''It's a dream coming true for me. All the work throughout the year has really been paying off and all this happening today and in Madrid is just going to be a great bonus for me.

''I didn't get too much sleep this week, I'll be honest. It was tough at times, and especially being able to block that away and to be able to play my game proved just how much stronger I've become mentally the last few months.

''That's why the win this week has been that much more sweet, having to get through all this stuff about the Championships,'' she added.

Schnyder hit two double-faults in her opening service game and had to fight off two break points before holding for 1-1.

However, she earned the first break, taking a 3-2 lead when second-seeded Hantuchova put a forehand wide.

The Slovak struggled to find her timing and her tendency to try for the lines backfired several times as she missed her mark by a small margin.

Sixth-seeded Schnyder won two service games at love and then came within two points of breaking again for a 5-2 lead. But Hantuchova survived and then broke to level at 4-4 with two fine winners and the help of some slack play from Schnyder.

Moving the ball around well and now making fewer errors, Hantuchova broke again for the set when Schnyder put a forehand long.

Hantuchova always held the advantage in the second set. A forehand error gave her a break for 3-1 but she had to fight off two break points in the next game, before holding with an ace.

Schnyder faced another break point at 4-1, saved with an overhead, but a forehand error at 5-2 gave Hantuchova another break and the match.

''She played really well from the beginning,'' said Schnyder.

''It was too tough for me today to beat her. She never gave me a chance to come back and was just hitting clean winners.

''I couldn't play my game and I'm not too happy with my performance, because of her game and the way she played.'' REUTERS TB RAI2232

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