Safina's Dream Run Takes Her Into Final

ReutersDinara Safina celebrating after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday.
PARIS -- Dinara Safina needs just one more win to join her 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 then 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 older brother Marat Safin is a former No. 1 player who won the 2000 U.S. Open and 2005 Australian Open.

Seeded 13th, Safina was one point from defeat against Sharapova in the fourth round and No. 7-seeded Yelena Dementyeva 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.

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.

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.

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.

She'll try to become the first woman to win a Grand Slam title after saving match point in two matches.