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Page last updated at 06:38 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Serena will meet Safina in final

AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Venue: Melbourne Park Date: 19 January-1 February
Coverage: BBC Red Button, Radio 5 Live sports extra, BBC Sport website (Red Button coverage streamed on website throughout fortnight)


Serena Williams
Williams took advantage of Dementieva's crumbling serve

Serena Williams and Dinara Safina will fight for the world number one ranking in the final of the Australian Open after wins in Melbourne on Thursday.

Second seed Williams beat fourth seed Elena Dementieva 6-3 6-4 in their semi-final as the Russian's serve fell to pieces after a promising start.

Dementieva double-faulted twice to hand Williams a crucial second-set break.

Third seed Safina scrapped past fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva, seeded seventh, 6-3 7-6 (7-4) to reach the final.

"I was really calm," said Williams, who will now face Safina on Saturday for the title.

To fight for the number one spot in the world is unbelievable

Dinara Safina

"I'm happy to have gotten this far, all my hard work is paying off.

"My goal isn't to be number one. My goal is to win one more singles match here at the Australian Open."

Safina, who will play Williams for the number one world ranking, said the opportunity was her "dream".

"To fight for the number one spot in the world is unbelievable," she said.

"Vera had won so many matches 6-0 whereas I've been struggling, playing three sets.

"But now was the time to play and I was ready for anything."

With the temperature hitting 44C on Melbourne's hottest January day since 1939, organisers had little option but to close the roof on Rod Laver Arena.

The indoor conditions suited Williams, who got the vital break to win an attritional first set which gradually developed into engrossing tennis.

The first three games all went to deuce, 27-year-old Williams saving two break points before squandering a chance to break Olympic champion Dementieva.

The American's unforced errors made Dementieva, also 27, look fairly comfortable when on serve, but Williams slowly improved her focus while her first serve often left the Russian standing.

In the eighth game, a loose backhand from Dementieva opened up the first cracks in her game, and the second seed did not require a second opportunity.

Another wide backhand from Dementieva handed Williams the break, and the Russian gestured despairingly at her racquet as a dismal drop-shot attempt surrendered the first set.

I allowed Serena to be very aggressive and dictate the game

Elena Dementieva

The second set began with ferocious hitting as both players tried to find an extra level.

The powerful Dementieva backhand won the Russian a break of serve to send her 3-0 up in the set, but another abysmal drop-shot allowed Williams to come roaring back as she produced a string of unusually delicate forehand winners.

A series of double faults in the fifth game of the set proved Dementieva's undoing, throwing away her advantage and self-confidence.

In her next service game the Russian fired limply back into the net as her serve and concentration deteriorated at a worrying rate.

Though she broke back at the first time of asking, another Dementieva service game punctuated by a double fault left Williams to serve out for her place in the final.

"I was maybe not aggressive enough and maybe I was playing not deep enough, which allowed her to be very aggressive and dictate the game," said Dementieva.

Dinara Safina
Safina battled past Zvonareva as both players struggled on serve

"My first serve was not good enough for her today, and I double-faulted at some bad moments."

Safina went into her semi-final having won five of her nine meetings with Zvonareva.

But Zvonareva, two years Safina's elder at 24, had won the three most recent clashes between the two, all on hard courts similar to Rod Laver Arena.

Safina surged into an early lead in an untidy first set, swatting away a nervy Zvonareva serve to break before holding serve with promising movement and pace.

However, Zvonareva replied with a far better service game then broke back with a strong forehand down the line.

Both women continued to offer up break points on their own serve, and Safina's backhand, which had been looking vulnerable, came good at just the right moment to restore her break advantage in the seventh game.

This time the 22-year-old held serve, reaching up to her full height to produce a devastating first serve that Zvonareva, though the more mobile of the pair, could not combat.

And Safina was building valuable momentum as she fought back from 40-0 down to break Zvonareva for a third time and claim the first set.

The second set went with serve until the fifth game but, as the match entered its second hour, Safina went long to hand her opponent the break.

However, she broke back in controversial circumstances when an impressive winner was clearly ruled in by HawkEye, Zvonareva dubbing the umpire's refusal to replay the point "ridiculous" before slamming a ball across-court in disgust.

Zvonareva briefly appeared to find a new gear as a result of her anger, treating the previously-dangerous Safina serve temporarily with contempt.

She broke Safina once again to serve for the second set, but in a match where neither player ever settled on serve, Safina immediately broke back to send the set to a tie-break.

Sheer tension prevented any real rallies developing in a surprisingly rapid tie-break, but Safina picked off two Zvonareva serves to win, reaching the final with the benefit of another HawkEye call.

"I remember watching my brother on TV winning this tournament, and if I still watched it today I would have tears in my eyes," said Safina,

"It's great that I can follow in his footsteps. He was my idol - he still is my idol - and the fact that I'm doing as well as him is amazing."



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see also
Robson reaches girls' semi-finals
29 Jan 09 |  Tennis
Aussie Open photos
29 Jan 09 |  Tennis
Order of play
19 Jan 09 |  Tennis
Men's singles draw
26 Aug 11 |  Tennis
Women's singles draw
28 Jan 10 |  Tennis
Tennis on the BBC
28 Jan 09 |  Tennis


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