Safina, Kuznetsova reach Porsche GP final

Dinara Safina rallied from the brink of defeat and beat Flavia Pennetta to set up a showdown with Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of the Porsche GP.

updated: May 03, 2009 06:46 IST
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Stuttgart, Germany:

Top-ranked Dinara Safina rallied from the brink of defeat and beat Flavia Pennetta 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 on Saturday to set up a showdown with Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final of the Porsche Grand Prix.

Kuznetsova defeated Olympic champion and second-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-2.

Safina was down 5-4 in the second set but she held serve, then broke for a 6-5 lead and clinched the set to even the match after a poor start.

She will now have the chance to end her first tournament as the new No. 1 in the world with her first title of the year.

Safina, who became No. 1 last week, advanced to her third final of the year. She was runner-up at Sydney and at the Australian Open.

Pennetta, an unseeded Italian who is ranked No. 14, came close to beating her third top-10 opponent this week, but collapsed in the final set.

"I was a bit slow at the start," Safina said after beating Pennetta for the sixth time in six matches. "And she was playing her best tennis."

Safina double-faulted to give away an error-filled first set and appeared doomed after going down 3-1 in the second. But during a changeover, she called for her coach, Zeljko Krajan. She then pulled even, dropped her serve again, but battled back and then started hitting winners worthy of a No. 1.

"He was very angry with me and I changed my game completely," Safina said. "It was smart to call him."

Safina has a 7-4 edge over Kuznetsova in previous matches.

The fifth-seeded Kuznetsova made the Stuttgart final for the first time after getting knocked out in her three previous semifinals.

"I surprised myself a little bit. I was extremely focused," Kuznetsova said.

She will play either top-ranked Dinara Safina or Flavia Pennetta in Sunday's final.

Kuznetsova now has a 6-4 career edge over Dementieva, who leads the tour with 29 match wins this year and has won two titles, in Auckland and Sydney, and was a semifinalist at the Australian Open.

In an all-Russian semifinal, Kuznetsova took early control and led 3-1. She set the pace from the baseline, moving Dementieva around the court.

"I wanted to come and be aggressive, I controlled the court," Kuznetsova said.

Dementieva climbed back to 3-3 but Kuznetsova broke serve again to win the first set.

She also took a decisive 3-0 lead in the second and never looked back to reach her first final of the year.

The last two points were typical of Dementieva's play _ she netted what should have been a simple drop volley, then hit a backhand way too long to lose the match.

"I was too passive, I didn't attack her," Dementieva said. "I did not play at my high level."

The Stuttgart tournament used to be played on a hard surface, but has become the first indoor event on clay on the circuit.