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Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 17:16 UK

Ivanovic to face Safina in final

French Open: Sunday 25 May to Sunday 8 June
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Highlights: Ivanovic v Jankovic

Serbia's Ana Ivanovic will play 13th seed Dinara Safina in the French Open women's final on Saturday.

Last year's runner-up Ivanovic was a break down in the final set against fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic.

But the 20-year-old stormed back to triumph 6-4 3-6 6-4, a win which also earns her the world number one ranking.

Safina was in unstoppable form as she overpowered fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-2 to reach her maiden Grand Slam final.

Kuznetsova's defeat means there will be a new Grand Slam champion after Saturday's final as well as a new world number one.

Ivanovic and Jankovic knew the winner of their semi-final would replace Maria Sharapova at the top of the rankings, and the younger Serb came through a topsy-turvy battle.

"I'm obviously very excited," said the 20-year-old, the first Serbian man or woman to hold the number one ranking.

"Coming into this tournament, I didn't expect that.

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"But the tournament hasn't ended. I have another tough match, so that's all I want to focus on. You want to win every event. That's still my goal."

For Jankovic, it was her fourth defeat in a Grand Slam semi-final.

"I am very disappointed but I still cannot go and kill myself and put myself down," said the 23-year-old, who has been suffering from tendonitis in her arm.

"The year is still long. There are still two more grand slams, many big tournaments to play. I still have to work hard and believe in myself, and I will achieve my goal."

Ivanovic bounced back from a 3-0 deficit to win six consecutive games, giving her the first set and a 2-0 lead in the second.

But this year's beaten Australian Open finalist then began to struggle with her serve just as her fellow Serb began playing more aggressive tennis.

Jankovic won seven straight games and led 2-0 in the final set before Ivanovic mounted what proved a decisive comeback.

In the final game she broke serve by hitting four winners, including a ferocious forehand return on match point.

"It was a very tough match - there were lots of ups and downs," added Ivanovic.

"I was just so happy to stay strong in the end and win the match. "

Although younger than 22-year-old Safina, Ivanovic is certain to go into the final as the favourite.

But, buoyed by victories over Sharapova, seventh seed Elena Dementieva and now world number four Kuznetsova, Safina will herself be confident of lifting the title.

She has been one of the tour's in-form players on clay this season, winning Berlin, and dominated a strangely lacklustre Kuznetsova throughout to claim a thoroughly deserved triumph.

Safina, who saved match points against Sharapova in the fourth round and Dementieva in the quarter-finals, raced into a 4-1 lead by breaking her opponent twice in the first five games.

Despite working her way back to 4-3, Kuznetsova was broken again and Safina served out the set to leave the 2004 US Open champion shell-shocked.

It was pretty horrible - I felt like I could not give her fight because I was fighting first against myself

Svetlana Kuznetsova
Kuznetsova was becoming increasingly frustrated as she failed to establish her normal rhythm - earning a warning for angrily smashing a ball into the sky - and, crucially, she was broken at 2-2 in the second set.

Safina, seeded 13, overcame two break points the very next game and then broke again to take a 5-2 lead.

A litany of unforced errors, allied to Safina's stunning forehand, reduced Kuznetsova to a shadow of her normal self and the 2006 finalist pulled a forehand horribly wide to seal her defeat.

"It feels amazing. I didn't expect to get to the final," said Safina, the younger sister of Marat Safin, who won the 2000 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open.

Safina said coming back from the brink in her previous two matches had given her the confidence to beat Kuznetsova.

"I was confident, like there's nothing else that can happen," she said.

"I felt that being twice one step from the exit and still being here, that God kept me in this tournament.

"So I said, 'I have to be aggressive, because there will be no third chance that this will happen'."

Kuznetsova said: "It was pretty horrible. I felt pretty bad out there. I felt like I could not give her fight because I was fighting first against myself."


see also
Safina sets up Kuznetsova clash
04 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Nadal to meet Djokovic in semis
03 Jun 08 |  Tennis


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