Safina survives to face Kuznetsova in final
STUTTGART: World number one Dinara Safina overcame a first set scare here Saturday to outclass unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 and book her place in the WTA Stuttgart final.
Safina, who will play Russian compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sunday, turned her semi-final around in the second set after calling for her coach Zeljko Krajan, going on to recover from 3-1 down to win the second 7-5.
In the third set plucky Pennetta, who beat last year's finalist Nadia Petrova and Jelena Jankovic en route to the semi-final, tired badly, having made the last four of the doubles competition, and failed to offer much resistance.
"I was a bit slow starting today," said the 23-year-old Safina, who lost this year's Australian Open final to Serena Williams.
"I didn't play my best tennis, but I did enough to get through.
"It was smart to call on my coach, he was pretty angry with me and I changed my game completely after that.
"She (Pennetta) played some great tennis, it was a tough game."
In the other semi-final fifth-seed Kuznetsova needed just 67 minutes to beat fellow Russian Elena Dementieva to reach her first final of the year.
The 23-year-old was rarely troubled by Olympic champion Dementieva and having blasted through the first set in 38 minutes, Kuznetsova needed only 29 minutes to take the second.
"I was extremely focused," said Kuznetsova, ranked ninth in the world and who thus broke her eight-match losing streak against top ten players.
"I controlled the court and I am happy with the way I played.
"I wanted to come out and play very aggressively - I did that."
Kuznetsova made an aggressive start to lead the first set 3-1 before Dementieva rallied to level the scores at 3-3, only for Kuznetsova to break her opponent again and then serve out the set.
But there was to be no such comeback in the second as Kuznetsova again powered out to 3-1 and with the score poised at 5-2, Dementieva, ranked third in the world, was serving to stay in the match.
It summed up her luck that at 30-15 down on service in the final game, she hit the ball into the net to give Kuznetsova a match point when she only needed to tap the ball over with virtually the whole court at her mercy.
Kuznetsova took her first chance to win the match and Dementieva was left to rue several missed opportunities.
"I was too passive, I didn't attack enough or put her (Kuznetsova) under any real pressure," said Dementieva.
"She is a very good player on clay and if you don't put her under any pressure there is no way you can expect to beat her.
"I am not playing as well as I would like to at the moment and I need to go away and practise a lot."