Dementieva and Safina reach Beijing final
Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva ensured that the Olympic women’s singles final will be an all-Russian affair after victories in their semi-finals.
Safina battled the crowd and a worthy opponent in the form of home favourite Li Na to win 7-6(3) 7-5 in a match riddled with errors.
Dementieva produced a workman-like performance to dispatch compatriot Vera Zvonareva 6-3 7-6(3) and book her final place.
World No.6 Safina had to deal with a partisan crowd on her way to a hard-fought victory, as well as an opponent who had already seen off Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams on her way to medal contention.
In the early stages it looked as though Safina would simply overpower the Chinese, but a string of unforced errors and some poor serving allowed Na to stay in the match.
Safina served for the first set at both 5-4 and 6-5 but blew three sets points, eventually taking the first set in the tie-break.
Four double-faults in one game from Safina gifted the world No.42 the advantage in the second set – but at 5-3 up her game deserted her. Safina broke back to level and broke again with ease to seal her place in the gold medal match.
The Russian has endured a grueling schedule in Beijing, playing both singles and double for Russia, playing the semi-final barely 12 hours after she lost a doubles match that finished at 3.30am.
“It wasn’t easy,” Safina said afterwards. “I didn’t sleep enough. I’m just really happy that I could put all my energy into the match.”
Safina will play compatriot and childhood friend Dementieva after she saw off Vera Zvonareva, who after being called up late to replace the injured Maria Sharapova remains in contention for a medal.
With the gold and silver now guaranteed to add to the Russian medal tally in Beijing, a win for Zvonareva could clinch a clean sweep of the medals for their women’s tennis squad.
“It’s a huge moment for Russia,” Dementieva said. “I’m sure all the fans back home will be very happy about it.”
In the doubles, Venus and Serena Williams are through to the gold medal match after beating Ukraine’s Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6 6-4 6-1 in a match that redefined sibling rivalry.
The Williams sisters face Spanish pair Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual in the final after they beat Chinese duo Zi Yan and Jie Zheng 6-4 7-6(5).
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