Dinara Safina is the No. 1 player in the world — any questions?
The Russian brought herself to the verge of a first Grand Slam title on Thursday, dispatching of overachiever Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3 to advance into the final at the French Open. Serena Williams and other players who have disparaged the Slam-less Safina can now only sit and watch as one player stands in her way of not only winning a first Slam, but putting big points between her, the Williams sisters and the remainder of players chasing No. 1
That one player will be another Russian in Svetlana Kuznetsova, who out-fitnessed Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.
Kuznetsova looked to be on the fast track to challenging for No. 1 after winning the US Open in 2004, but she hasn’t won a Slam since, failing to live up to the challenge of Justine Henin who defeated her in the 2006 Roland Garros final and in the 2007 final at the US Open.
Stosur pushed Kuznetsova to a third set in the semis before her tank ran dry.
“Sam played so well in the [second set] tiebreak. She took the risks and she made them. I give her credit,” Kuznetsova said. “I stayed tough and won the third set. Even though I should have won the second set, I still kept playing. I didn’t give up.”
It was the first Slam quarterfinal appearance for the Aussie.
“I tried to the last point, but when you go down a break in the third, it’s not easy to get it back,” Stosur said. “I’ve played big matches before. I thought I handled the occasion really well. I felt really good out there mentally and physically, and I gave it my best shot. I don’t think the occasion overwhelmed me.”
Safina leads the head-to-head with Kuznetsova 8-5, but they are deadlocked at 4-4 on clay.
Safina is 0-2 in Slam finals, losing last year at the French to Ana Ivanovic, and this year at the Australian Open to Serena Williams, both time appearing mentally less than a champion.
“Hopefully it will be third time lucky for me,” Safina said. “It will be great if I have a Grand Slam, but the way I’m playing, I think it shows enough that I deserve this spot. I just want to go out there on Saturday and play my game.”
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