A fascinating battle in offing

Kuznetsova stands between Safina and maiden Grand Slam title

The seventh-seeded US Open winner from five years ago and the younger sister of Marat Safin have set up the second all-Russian women’s final at Roland Garros in the past five years, following in the footsteps of Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva from 2004.

Kuznetsova and Safina, who took over the number one ranking in mid-April, have met twice in the past month on clay, with Kuznetsova winning indoors in Stuttgart and Safina getting it back by taking the Rome title.

Now, Kuznetsova is trying to stop her rival from claiming a first Grand Slam title and validating her top WTA ranking. But the task at hand will be difficult for a challenger whose emotions ride the wave during matches.

“Dinara’s looking to this final, she’s going to be favourite to win,” said Kuznetsova, also a losing finalist at the 2007 US Open.

“She’s number one and has played an unbelievable season. And she beat me last time we played.”

Kuznetsova trails 5-7 in a series which began in 2001 in qualifying rounds in Madrid.
“It’s definitely going to be stress, definitely going to be emotion, definitely going to be business,” she said of the encounter between a pair who know each other’s games inside out.

“I will still try to put everything away and just go out. Why should I change? For me, every match should be the same, first round or last round, you know. This last match has got to be the same. I’m not going to change for the final.”

Kuznetsova has had plenty of court time during the fortnight, with rest her main priority before the weekend clash for the trophy. “I’m a little bit tired and there are a lot of nerves and emotions. I’ll be fine, I have a day off so it’s great.”

Safina has much on the line as well, hoping to end criticism of a number one player without a Grand Slam crown.

“I think since I became number one, I’m playing finals and winning the titles,” said the form player of the spring, who has won 20 of her last 21 matches since assuming the top ranking on April 20.

Safina has reached the finals at six of nine tournaments this year, lifting two singles titles. Since May 2008, Safina has won six titles.  

“How much more proof do I need to give the people that I think I deserve that spot?” she said of the top honour. “Of course it’s going to be be great if I have a Grand Slam title. The way I’m playing, I think it shows enough that I think I deserve this spot.
“I think it’s going to be just great, I want to go out there and play my game.”

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