Safina needs final step to justify No 1 standing

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The Independent Online

Dinara Safina, who meets her fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova here in today's French Open final, has barely done justice to herself in her two previous appearances in a Grand Slam final. The world No 1 was outgunned by Ana Ivanovic here 12 months ago and was crushed in less than an hour by Serena Williams at this year's Australian Open.

Kuznetsova, who has one Grand Slam title to her name after winning the 2004 US Open, was doing her best yesterday to keep the pressure on her opponent. ''She's No 1,'' Kuznetsova said. ''She has to win it, not me. I just want to go out there and enjoy it.''

Safina has won eight of their 13 meetings, including five of the last six, but Kuznetsova is the only player who has beaten Marat Safin's sister in the current clay-court season, winning the final in Stuttgart.

The two players, both 23, have been friends and rivals since they were juniors. ''She was a funny girl,'' Safina recalled. ''I remember her coming to the match with a two-litre Pepsi. You would look at her and think: 'No way can she win a Grand Slam one day.' But then she moved to Spain and changed completely. She became much more professional.''