The No.6-seeded Kuznetsova didn't lose a set en route to the final, including in a dominant 6-3, 6-2 victory against No.2-seeded Ekaterina Makarova in the semifinals, and that trend looked like it was going to continue as she won seven straight games from 2-3 to build a 6-3, 3-0 lead against Nara.
Nara had won two of her matches this week from a set down, including rallying from a 6-0 first set blowout to win her semifinal, and she conjured up that same kind of magic again, sneaking out the second set, 6-4, and staying on serve with Kuznetsova through the first nine games of the third set.
But the comeback was silenced as Nara stepped up to serve at 4-5 in the third set. Kuznetsova pounced one last time, breaking Nara quickly and painlessly at 15 to polish off a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 triumph.
"It happened a little bit like this earlier in the year in Oeiras - I was up 4-1 in the third set in the final but lost the match," Kuznetsova recalled. "Today when I was up I was getting tight, but in the third set I was just trying to hold my serve, and in the last game I knew I just needed four more points."
Kuznetsova's win put an end to almost four years of not winning a WTA title - her last WTA title came in San Diego on Sunday, August 8, 2010. "It feels like it's been too long," she said. "When you've won Grand Slams, not winning tournaments is hard, but you just keep trying your best every time you play.
"It's always very special to win a WTA title and I'm happy I could do it again here."
The Citi Open is the 14th WTA title of Kuznetsova's career. Two of the former World No.2's WTA titles are Grand Slams, of course - the 2004 US Open and the 2009 French Open. She has also been to two more Grand Slam finals, the 2006 French Open and 2007 US Open (falling to Justine Henin at both).
In just a matter of weeks it will be the 10-year anniversary of Kuznetsova's 2004 US Open triumph.
Nara was playing in the second WTA final of her career, having won Rio de Janeiro earlier this year.
"Svetlana was too good today, but I really enjoyed playing in Washington this year and I hope to come back again," the soft-spoken Japanese said after the match. "I like playing on US hardcourts and am really looking forward to playing the rest of the Emirates Airline US Open Series this summer."
The doubles final was played on Saturday night and saw No.2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Gabriela Dabrowski beat Nara and Hiroko Kuwata, 6-1, 6-2. Aoyama now has four WTA doubles titles to her name, including the last three years at this event - Dabrowski won her first WTA title of any kind.
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