Safina enters Italian Open final

Rome, May 20 :

Dinara Safina beat fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday to reach the final of the Italian Open.

Safina, the younger sister of two-time Grand Slam winner Marat Safin, served a love game to close out the 2 hour, 33-minute match after a break-filled final set.

Safina has won four minor titles in her career but none of the nine ranked just below the four Grand Slams in importance.

“I didn’t expect it when I saw the draw here and (second-seeded Kim) Clijsters in the third round, but I beat her, then I beat (fifth-seeded Elena) Dementieva,” the 16th-seeded Safina said. “All my dreams are coming true.” The other semi-final pits ninth-seeded Venus Williams and Martina Hingis in a matchup of former top-ranked players.

Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion who was seeded seventh here, won five straight games to close out the first set after falling 3-1 down.

After trading early breaks in the second set, Safina lined up a service return winner to

go up 5-4, then held serve with a backhand winner up the line to conclude a long rally on her first set point.

Safina served for the match twice in the final set. On her first opportunity, she double faulted to hand Kuznetsova a break and draw even to 5-5. Safina then broke back and served out the match. “It was really a battle. In the second set I was down and I just said to myself, ‘play point by point,’ and it went my way today,” Safina said.

The Italian Open is a clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which starts on May 28.