Kuzy, Safina Advance to All-Russian French Open Semifinal
Down a set and 2-5 in the second, Russian Dinara Safina staged another gutsy comeback Wednesday at the French Open, defeating countrywoman Elena Dementieva 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-0 to advance into her first semifinal at Roland Garros.
Dementieva, the former French Open runner-up and a doormat for more mentally-stronger opponents during her career, wilted after failing to put away the younger sister of former No. 1 Marat Safin in the second set.
“It was very hard to play the third set after I had so many chances to finish the match,” said the fragile Dementieva. “I was trying to get myself back into the game, but it was kind of difficult.”
It was the second straight match that Safina came back from a break down in the second set to win in three.
“I was one step away (from losing),” Safina said, “It’s not easy to come back every time, because once it’s going to be too late. But I guess how it’s goes now, these matches…I was just — Okay, I have to hang in there and just do something more, and then I just changed completely.”
Safina stunned world No. 1 Maria Sharapova a round earlier, also eking out a second-set tiebreak.
In the semifinals, Safina will face her third consecutive Russian opponent in No. 4 seed and former French runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova, who roared back from a break down in the first set to defeat unseeded Kaia Kanepi in straight sets.
“Dinara is playing very well,” Kuznetsova said. “She has too many lives, so I have to be careful with her.”
Up on Thursday are the all-Russian and all-Serbian women’s singles semi matches in (13) Dinara Safina vs. (4) Svetlana Kuznetsova, and (3) Jelena Jankovic vs. (2) Ana Ivanovic.
Monfils French Fries Ferrer at Roland Garros
The French had something to cheer about, madly, on Wednesday at the French Open when unseeded Frenchman Gael “Force” Monfils unleashed a torrent of winners in dispatching of No. 5 seed David Ferrer 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
The first Frenchman to reach the Roland Garros semis in seven years, the Gael Force had won only five matches this year entering the French due to a knee injury. In the semifinals he will face world No. 1 Roger Federer, who on Wednesday came from a set down to defeat No. 24 Fernando “Gonzo” Gonzalez 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s going to be a big match, probably the most important match of my career yet,” Monfils said of facing Federer. “It will be very tough, but I’m getting closer to the objective so I’m highly motivated. I’ve been practicing for 20 years for this moment so I don’t want to miss it.”
Monfils has never won a set off the Swiss in three meetings.
Federer was forced to change his game plan after dropping the opening set against Gonzalez.
“Sometimes you tend to be afraid of his forehand so you want to play on his backhand — so I made some tactical errors at the beginning,” Federer said. “It was only afterwards that I started to be far more aggressive on his forehand. And then the match turned a bit and I felt very strong from the baseline and I felt very confident, so then it became very difficult for Fernando.”
Thursday is women’s semifinal day at the French, and the men will resume play on Friday.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Gael Monfils has reached his first career Slam semifinal…Roger Federer has reached his 16th straight slam semifinal…Dinara Safina is trying to become the first women to win a Slam after saving match points at Roland Garros…Marat Safin and Dinara Safina have both reached a Slam semifinal…Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic will meet in a Slam for the first time…Jelena Jankovic has reached four Slam semifinals, but has never won one. Ana has also now reached four Slam semifinals, having won two…Maria Sharapova will not be No. 1 next Monday — the girl who goes the furthest among Jankovic, Ivanovic and Kuznetsova will be…Roger Federer is now 11-1 vs. Fernando Gonzalez…Gael Monfils is the first Frenchmen in the semifinals at Roland Garros since Sebastien Grosjean in 2001…A Russian woman has reached the Roland Garros semifinal for the seventh straight year…Forecast: Still cool with a slight chance for showers…After his run at Roland Garros, Latvia’s 19-year-old “The Importance of Being” Ernests Gulbis says he will depart from the Marat Safin-style training regime: “About one year ago, for example, I was not really concentrated on tennis at all,” Gulbis said after a tightly-contested loss to Novak Djokovic. “I could go out before a tournament, I could go with friends until six in the morning, and then play a match. That is in a kind of way a little bit crazy and stupid. This year I start to realize that it’s not the way of a professional tennis player.” Not crazy or stupid to Marat…Ashley Harkleroad, who will be appearing in the August issue of Playboy magazine, says she will also join American compatriots such as Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish in saying “no thanks” to representing the U.S. in the Beijing Olympics. “Some people just grow up dying to play the Olympics, and that’s their goal. It has never been my goal really,” Harkleroad said. — Yeah, who cares about the greatest sporting event in the world? Time to maybe qualify to go back to college, get an education. The 33-year-old Jill Craybas will most likely fill Harkleroad’s vacated spot…Estonia’s 22-year-old French Open quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi is currently studying at Haapsalu Wiedemanni Gumnaasium — that was our back-up school after Harvard. She is also sponsored by Tallink Grupp and Infotar — are those car-cleaning products? Kanepi, BTW, beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 2001 Roland Garros junior final, and held the No. 1 junior ranking…Roger Federer is backing an Olympic wildcard for Nicolas Massu, who won both the singles and doubles in 2004. Massu is currently playing Challengers in an effort to raise his ranking, which is too low to get in the Olympics. “Absolutely. He’s a defending champion,” Federer said on the Chilean receiving a wildcard. “I mean, if he doesn’t get one anymore, I don’t know who will get one. I’m the first guy to completely agree with whoever has taken that decision. I hope it’s in a positive way for Nicolas, because what he achieved back in Athens winning singles and doubles, it’s never going to happen again.”…Liezel Huber, speaking to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “Yeah, I was reading USA Today and it was saying how there are no more Americans in the draw.” Huber not long ago became an American citizen…From ESPN’s Bonnie Ford: “Marion Bartoli said she is exhausted and has been for months. We suggest she might be carrying too much luggage, psychic and otherwise.” — A very PC women’s way of saying Bartoli is a fatty — surprising since her father/coach is such a self-purported training wiz…Tennis reporter Matt Cronin on Maria Sharapova losing to Dinara Safina at the French: “And she was angry, so very angry, so much so that she screamed “You’re a choker” at herself in the sixth game of the third set after she blew two easy put-aways and was struggling so badly at that point that she yelled, “C’mon, kick her ass!”…Will Maria Sharapova ever win the French, even with a better chance now that Justine Henin has retired? Between her poor movement and one-dimensional game (topspin only, no slice, no drop shot, no variety), the short answer — mmmmm…no.
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