Svetlana Kuznetsova conquered her nerves and beat a shaky Dinara Safina 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday to win the French Open. Showing uncharacteristic calm, Kuznetsova earned her second Grand Slam title.
Jitters have often betrayed Kuznetsova down the stretch in big matches, but she swept the final four games with steady play. Instead it was the top-ranked Safina who battled her emotions in the all-Russian matchup.
She double-faulted seven times, struggled with her movement and appeared near tears late in the match. "Today I think she was too tight," the seventh-seeded Kuznetsova said. "She had so much pressure on her. But I could bring my better game today, that's why I won."
Four-time French Open champion Justine Henin and others have criticised Safina's ranking because she has yet to win a major title. She climbed to No 1 in April and will remain there through at least late July, but she's now 0-3 in Grand Slam finals. The younger sister of two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin was runner-up at Roland Garros last year to Ana Ivanovic. "Hopefully, one day I can win here," Safina said during the trophy ceremony, her voice cracking.
The loss ended her 16-match winning streak.
On Sunday, Roger Federer will play in his fourth consecutive Roland Garros final, with one big difference this year: He's facing Robin Soderling, not Rafael Nadal. Federer will bid for his 14th major title to match Pete Sampras' record, and he'll try to become the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam titles.
Soderling will play in his first major final after upsetting four-time defending champion Nadal in the fourth round. Kuznetsova beat 10-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, and against Safina she had the more varied game, mixing the angle and pace of her groundstrokes as she scooted across the clay. She hit an occasional drop shot and won all six points when she came to the net.
Cool, damp weather made for slower conditions that lessened the impact of Safina's booming groundstrokes. And her serve was woeful: Safina lost more than half her service points and was broken five times.
She double-faulted for the last time on championship point, then slammed her racket to the court, and Kuznetsova's reaction to the victory was subdued. The two finalists, whose friendly rivalry dates back a decade, traded kisses on the cheek at the net. Kuznetsova then allowed herself a brief smile and acknowledged the cheering crowd by patting her chest.