Safina closes in on first major


Originally published on: 26/02/10 12:32

The world number one posted a 6-3 6-3 success in an hour and 41 minutes and is now just one more victory away from a first grand-slam title.

Safina lost to Ana Ivanovic here in last year’s showpiece, and also to Serena Williams in the Australian Open final earlier this year, but she will be heavy favourite on Sunday to end her wait for a major.

Cibulkova, the diminutive 20th seed 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.

It looked like the Moscow-born 23-year-old would be heading for the exit door the way she started, losing her serve in the opening game and then slipping 2-0 down under a clear blue sky in the French capital.

By that stage, Cibulkova’s length was troubling the world number one but she quickly turned things around. She came back from 40-0 down in game six to break the Slovakian for the second time and go 4-2 up.

Cibulkova saved three set points in the eighth game but Safina had two more on her own serve in the next, taking the set on the second of those thanks to an unreturnable cross-court forehand.

When Safina disputed a line call in the second game of the second set, she faced the wrath of the Philippe Chatrier crowd, who were clearly pulling for the underdog.

Cibulkova, who at 5ft 3in would have been the smallest grand-slam champion in the modern era, was making a better fist of it but she was broken in the fifth game and that signalled the end. Safina held serve twice and then broke again in game nine to seal victory.

There could now be an all-Russian final for only the second time at Roland Garros if Svetlana Kuznetsova defeats Sam Stosur in the second semi-final.