Kuznetsova sets up Safina showdown

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The Independent Online

Svetlana Kuznetsova set up an all-Russian French Open final with Dinara Safina by beating Australian doubles specialist Sam Stosur in three sets in today's second semi-final.

Kuznetsova, the seventh seed, reached her second Roland Garros showpiece thanks to a 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 victory over the 30th seed on Philippe Chatrier court.

Top seed and title favourite Safina awaits compatriot Kuznetsova on Saturday after she beat 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 6-3 in the first semi-final.

Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion and a finalist here in 2006 when she lost to Justine Henin, blew hot and cold today and will need to up her game if she is to get the better of in-form Safina.

The 23-year-old broke three times to take the first set and looked like she was going to clinch a comfortable victory when 4-2 up in the second.

Stosur, a winner of 22 doubles titles who was bidding to become the first Australian woman to make the French Open singles final since Wendy Turnbull in 1979, was at that stage making too many unforced errors but she launched a good recovery.

She broke back in the eighth game and then recovered from 5-2 down in the tie-break to reel off five straight points, taking the match into a decider.

After an extended toilet break and a change of top, Kuznetsova came back fighting and needed just one break - in the sixth game - to seal the win.

Despite the defeat, Stosur will be delighted with her campaign in Paris, which came only a year after returning to action following a spell out because of viral meningitis and Lyme disease.

During that period, between September 2007 and April 2008, she was barely able to get out of bed, let alone play tennis.

Safina had earlier reached her second successive final at Roland Garros, despite not being at her best against Slovakia's Cibulkova, the diminutive 20th seed.

"It obviously gives you much more confidence when you know you can still do much better," said Safina, who lost to Ana Ivanovic in last year's showpiece and was also defeated by Serena Williams in this year's Australian Open final.

"But being under pressure and still winning in two sets, I'm really happy with myself."

Cibulkova, who eliminated Maria Sharapova in the last eight, battled gamely in her first grand-slam semi-final appearance but did not have the power or variety in her game to seriously threaten the Russian.

She went 2-0 up in the first set but that was as good as it got.

Safina, 23, turned things around by winning four games on the trot for 4-2 and took the set at the fifth time of asking with an unreturnable cross-court forehand.

Cibulkova was receiving the backing of the crowd but it could not inspire her as she was broken in the fifth and ninth games of the second set to slip to defeat.

"I didn't handle the situation," said Cibulkova.

"I got nervous, I made a couple of mistakes and then I got in a panic.

"I felt fresh and I wanted to play good tennis, but today I didn't make it mentally and with my tactics."

The only previous all-Russian final in the Open era at Roland Garros came in 2004 when Anastasia Myskina defeated Elena Dementieva in straight sets.