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Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 19:59 UK

Safina sets up Kuznetsova final

Dinara Safina
The world number one Safina defeated Williams after a tough battle

Dinara Safina saw off Venus Williams 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-4 in a thrilling match to set up a meeting with Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Italian Open final.

World number one Safina was edged out in a first set tie-break but hit back in the second after being a break down.

Safina sealed the win on her service game, but only after three double faults and saving four break points.

The victory set up an all-Russian final following Kuznetsova's easy win over Victoria Azarenka, 6-2 6-4.

It will be the second final in Rome for the two Russians having both finished runner-up once before, Safina in 2006 and Kuznetsova a year later.

In a ferocious battle that lasted more than three hours, Safina impressed after being a set down to eventually beat the five-time Wimbledon champion.

"It was a very long match and I think I played one of my best tennis matches, that I hadn't played for a long time," Safina said.


Williams won the first-set tie-breaker with a delicate drop volley, and looked strong in the next, breaking her opponent in the opening game.

But the 23-year-old Russian battled back to take the second set and secure victory with an error-strewn final game on her serve.

Safina, who had lost her two previous matches with Williams, added: "It was not easy mentally."

In Friday's earlier semi-final, the seventh seed Kuznetsova cruised through the first set in 41 minutes after breaking the serve of the 19-year-old Azarenka three times.

The Belarusian recovered well in the second set, but a disputed line-call appeared to knock her focus when she led 2-0, allowing the former US Open Champion to win on her serve.

Kuznetsova, who soon wrapped up the victory, said the dispute had helped her own cause.

"For me, it was just only one ball. She got too upset and then she got frustrated and started to hit every ball even harder," she said.

Without a title since 2007, Kuznetsova is hoping to win her second successive tournament victory after winning last week's Stuttgart Grand Prix.

Although Roland Garros starts in early June, she said: "I'm not thinking about that right now, the French Open, for me, is still too far away.

"For me, it's this tournament. I've been playing lots of matches so I'm just focusing on doing my best."

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see also
Venus & Safina to meet in semis
07 May 09 |  Tennis
Ivanovic suffers defeat in Rome
06 May 09 |  Tennis
Serena suffers shock Rome defeat
05 May 09 |  Tennis
Venus battles through Rome opener
04 May 09 |  Tennis
Keothavong makes early Rome exit
03 May 09 |  Tennis
Jankovic wins Italian Open title
18 May 08 |  Tennis
Jankovic cruises to Rome victory
20 May 07 |  Tennis

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