Russians Safina, Kuznetsova advance to French Open womens final

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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PARIS - Dinara Safina shanked shots, squandered chances, screamed profanities at herself and still won to set up an all-Russian final at the French Open on Thursday.
The top-ranked Safina beat Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals and needs one more win for her first Grand Slam title.
On Saturday, she'll face No. 7-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
The combustible Safina won despite seven double-faults. Twice in one game, her shots landed short of the net.
"I'm trying to control my emotions," she said. "I'm not playing my best, but still it's not easy to beat me."
It was a bad day for the two remaining Canadians in the tournament.
In men's doubles semifinal action, Toronto's Daniel Nestor and Serbian teammate Nenad Zimonjic dropped a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) decision to Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic and Leander Paes of India.
Top-seeded Nestor and Zimonjic had been all but unbeatable on clay recently, winning titles at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Madrid over the past two months.
Toronto's Katarena Paliivets was the last Canadian eliminated. She and partner Chanel Simmonds of South Africa were beaten 6-3, 6-4 by third-seeded Timea Babos of Hungary and Heather Watson of Britain in the girls' doubles quarter-finals.
Safina was runner-up to Ana Ivanovic last year at Roland Garros, and lost this year's Australian Open final to Serena Williams. Safina has a 7-4 record against Kuznetsova, and they split two meetings in finals last month.
"I really want to win this tournament," Safina said. "I had a very good experience last year, and I hope to do better this year. I still have a match to play, and I will give everything I've got."
The all-Russian final will be the second at Roland Garros, after Anastasia Myskina beat Elena Dementieva for the 2004 title.
Like Safina, Kuznetsova was playing a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist. Coming off a gruelling win on Wednesday over Serena Williams, Kuznetsova missed a chance at a straight-sets victory, allowing Stosur to overcome a 5-2 deficit in the tiebreaker.
Kuznetsova regrouped and held every service game in the last set. The 2004 U.S. Open champion will try for her second major title on Saturday.
"It's definitely going to be stress, definitely going to be emotion, definitely going to be business. Everything," Kuznetsova said.
In the men's semifinals on Friday, Roger Federer will try to move a step closer to a career Grand Slam and 14th major title, which would tie Pete Sampras' record. He's 5-0 against his opponent, 1.98-meter (6-foot-6) Juan Martin del Potro.
No. 23-seeded Robin Soderling will look to continue his improbable run against No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez. Soderling reached beyond the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time. Gonzalez is the first Chilean since 1960 to advance to the Roland Garros semifinals.
Safina's ranking has drawn criticism because she has yet to win a major. But in the four tournaments since she climbed to No. 1 in April, she's 20-1 with two titles, a runner-up finish and the strong showing at Roland Garros, where she has lost only one set.
"Since I became No. 1, I'm playing finals and winning the titles," she said. "So how much more proof I need to give the people that I think I deserve that spot?"
Her brother, Marat Safin, is a former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion.
The family's notorious temper was evident in the semifinals. At least twice Safina screamed a vulgarity at herself in English that TV microphones picked up, and an announcer apologized to the European audience.
Her language was cleaner when she shanked a backhand into the dirt at her feet.
"That was a great shot," she said.
Later in the same game, Safina misfired so badly on a first serve that she drove the ball into the clay in front of the net. She held anyway for a 4-2 lead in the second set.
"It wasn't an easy match," she said. "I have to be much more dominant on the court."
Safina kissed the corner with a forehand winner to reach match point and closed out the victory when Cibulkova put a backhand in the net.

Organizations: French Open, Australian Open

Geographic location: Toronto, Australia, Czech Republic India Monte Carlo Barcelona Rome Madrid South Africa Hungary Britain

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