Safina, Ivanovic in French Open final
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
PARIS ” Dinara Safina needs only one more win to join her older brother as a Grand Slam champion, and she’ll try for it Saturday against Ana Ivanovic in the French Open final.
Dispensing with the come-from-behind drama of her previous two matches, Safina advanced Thursday by beating fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2.
Ivanovic won a seesaw semifinal against fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Ivanovic swept the final three games for a victory that ensures she’ll be ranked No. 1 for the first time next week, replacing Maria Sharapova.
Safina’s berth in a major final is her first. Her brother Marat Safin is a former No. 1 player who won the 2000 U.S. Open and 2005 Australian Open.
“I’m doing it for him and for myself,” she said.
Safina will try to become the first woman to win a Grand Slam title after saving match point in two matches.
Seeded 13th, Safina was one point from defeat against Sharapova in the fourth round and No. 7-seeded Elena Dementieva in the quarterfinals before mounting comebacks.
But against the error-prone Kuznetsova, Safina took a 4-1 lead and cruised the rest of the way.
“I won in two sets ” that’s strange for me,” Safina said. “Once I had a set, then I knew I can push a little bit more. Then fire comes and you really like start to fly.”
The match between the No. 2-seeded Ivanovic and No. 3 Jankovic was a roller coaster, with every set won by the player who fell behind at the start.
Ivanovic swept six consecutive games to lead 2-0 in the second set, then began to struggle with her serve while Jankovic became more aggressive. Jankovic won seven consecutive games and led 2-0 in the final set before Ivanovic mounted another comeback.
In the final game she broke serve by whacking four winners, including a ferocious forehand return on match point. She squealed and covered her face in delight, then received a hug from Jankovic.
“It was a lot of ups and downs for both of us,” Ivanovic said. “I’m just so happy I managed to stay until the end.”
Like Safina, Ivanovic is seeking her first major title. She was runner-up at the 2007 French Open and 2008 Australian Open.
Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, hardly looked like a No. 4-seeded player against Safina, struggling to keep her groundstrokes in the court. She said she was tight and unable to get comfortable because Safina’s penetrating shots pinned her well behind the baseline.
“It was pretty horrible,” Kuznetsova said. “I felt pretty bad out there. I felt like I could not give her fight because I was fighting first against myself.”
By the second set Kuznetsova became so frustrated that after yet another errant shot, she angrily smacked a ball into the 12th row at the far end of the stadium.
The outburst failed to help. Safina broke in that game for a 3-2 lead and overcame two break points to win the next game. Soon she was serving for the match, and one final shanked forehand by Kuznetsova gave Safina the victory.
Her best previous Grand Slam showings were quarterfinal finishes in 2006 at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open.
“It feels amazing,” Safina said. “I didn’t expect that I could get to the final. I think the less you think, the better it is. Because when you less expect it, the result comes.”
Safina said her brother, who lost in the second round, is in England preparing for Wimbledon.
“He won’t show up for the final,” she said. “If it’s going to be live (on TV), I guess he will watch it.”
The men’s semifinals Friday will include the world’s three top-ranked players ” No. 1 Roger Federer, No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Novak Djokovic ” and Frenchman Gael Monfils, at No. 59 the lowest-ranked men’s semifinalist at Roland Garros since 1999.
Monfils plays Federer, who is seeking the only Grand Slam title he has yet to win. Djokovic faces Nadal, who is 26-0 at Roland Garros and two wins from a fourth consecutive French Open title.
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