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Safina outlasts Pennetta, meets Kuznetsova in final

World No.1 Dinara Safina rallied to a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory over fighting Italian Flavia Pennetta for a place in the Porsche Grand Prix tennis final.

sports Updated: May 03, 2009 14:57 IST

World No.1 Dinara Safina rallied to a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory over fighting Italian Flavia Pennetta for a place in the Porsche Grand Prix tennis final.

In the final, Safina meets the fifth-seeded fellow-Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, who trounced Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-2 in an all-Russian semi-final Saturday.

Safina leads their series 7-4 to be the light favourite for the title after her escape act against Pennetta who had led by a set and 3-1 in the second.Pennetta, 27, reached the semis with victories over top 10 players Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic, an ex-number one who was also the defending champion.

She was close to her first victory in the sixth meeting against Safina, who had climbed to number one last week and not dropped a set in Stuttgart until Saturday.

The first three nervous games went to the receiving player which gave Pennatta a 2-1 lead. The Italian then wrapped up the set in the ninth game when Safina double faulted.Safina called for her coach Zejlko Krajan early in the second which she named the defining moment of the match. "He was really angry. It was smart to call him. I changed my game completely," said Safina.

Safina fought from 3-1 down to 4-3, dropped serve again but finally broke for 6-5 and locked the sets with a service winner. That broke Pennetta's resistance as Safina was finally in command and did not allow Pennetta on the scoreboard again. "I was a bit slow at the start. And she was playing her best tennis," said Safina.

Kuznetsova took just 67 minutes to beat Dementieva for the sixth time in 10 meetings as she dictated play from the baseline even though she squandered an early 3-1 lead.

The 23-year-old took the set with a 10th game break on her third set point when Dementieva hit a forehand long after saving the first two with a lucky bounce off the net and a winner. Kuznetsova kept the momentum in the second set. She raced off to a 3-0 lead, slumped briefly for 3-2, but then broke again for 4-2 on a double fault from Dementieva. She wrapped up matters two games later with another break as Dementieva hit a forehand long.

"I surprised myself a little bit. I was extremely focussed. It is my game to dictate play," said Kuznetsova.

Dementieva said: "I was too passive, I didn't attack. You can't expect her to miss. You have to create against her.

Safina and Kuznetsova are seeking their first title of the year. Safina was a runner-up in Sydney and at the Australian Open while Kuznetsova is in her first 2009 decider. "She is in her best shape again but I hope to play well," said Safina.

The Stuttgart event is the first on the WTA Tour on indoor clay in the buildup to the French Open. The tournament was formerly held on hard court in autumn.

First Published: May 03, 2009 14:40 IST