Dinara Safina secured her progression to a second consecutive French Open final yesterday, to set up a encounter with compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The 23-year-old defeated Czechoslovakian Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 6-3 in a disjointed affair. Despite numerous unforced errors by the world number one, she escaped without punishment as Cibulkova failed to capitalize on her careless mistakes.
After handing former world number one Maria Sharapova a thrashing in the quarter-finals, the Czechoslovakian failed to recreate her fine form in the semi-final. Safina made the most of any errors by her opponent.
It will be her third Grand Slam final in two years. The first came when she was defeated in this competition against Ana Ivanovic last year. The Serbian won in straight sets, a disappointing end to a tournament in which Safina had shown courage and resilience when she was required to come from behind on more than one occasion.
After a solid end to 2008, Safina entered the 2009 season full of confidence. This was reflected with her performance at the Australian Open in January. She progressed to the final after some convincing performances along the way.
However once again she failed to be crowned champion. Serena Williams stormed to victory, winning the match in a mere 59 minutes (6-0, 6-3). Had the Russian won the game she would have reached the pinnacle of womanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tennis obtaining the number one crown.
So with the French Open final this Saturday could it be third time lucky for the tenacious Safina? She will face a tough opponent in fellow Russian, Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Kuznetsova, currently ranked world number seven, is double US Open finalist, once as the winner and once as the runner up, as well as losing in a French Open final. One of the fittest players on the womanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tour she is well-suited to the demanding conditions of the clay courts.
She is a renowned fierce opponent on all surfaces, with a powerful forehand. Yet she is often subject to nerves and regularly succumbs to the pressure in her most important matches.
Subsequently, at 4/11 the bookmakers have placed current world number one Safina as the clear pre-match favourite. Speaking to the media after her victory in the semi-finals, she said she is focused on finally winning a grand slam.
“I really want to win it,” admitted Safina. “I am more and more tense.”
“I had a great experience here last year and I just need to do a little bit better. I am just going to go for it.”
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BIOGRAPHY: Eric Bailly