Safina, Williams to fight for Melbourne title and top spot

January 29th, 2009 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Serena WilliamsMelbourne, Jan 29 (DPA) Serena Williams will bid for her tenth Grand Slam title to mark a decade of play at the Australian Open when she faces Dinara Safina in the Saturday final.Second seed Williams, who has won here during odd-numbered years dating to 2003, is going after her fourth at the venue.

The American snapped a three-match loss streak to Elena Dementieva as she knocked the Russian out 6-3, 6-4 in the semi-finals Thursday.

Third seed Safina followed in the footsteps of her big brother Marat Safin, the 2005 champion, by beating fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Safina said that the Australian final means much to her. “I watched my brother on TV when he won it. Even now, if I watch it would bring tears to my eyes.

“He’s always been my idol, to do as well as him is just amazing.”

Dementieva, the fourth-seeded Olympic champion, has now exited the discussion for possibly taking over the top spot. But Williams and Safina can each claim top honours by winning the event.

“Right now that would be just a bonus,” said Williams, adding: “But my goal isn’t to be number one. My goal is to obviously now win one more match here at the Australian Open.”

Said Safina: “Since I was growing up, it was my dream. To fight for this would be unbelievable. I hope it will be a great match with the winner deserving to be number one.”

Williams handed Dementieva her first loss of the season after winning her first 15 matches, including titles in Auckland and Sydney.

“I just had a good run from the beginning of the year,” said the 27-year-old who reached two Grand Slam finals in 2004. “I played a lot of matches, I won all of them.

“Today I was not quick enough. I was not maybe aggressive enough against her. But I have no regrets. I had just a great time here.”

Dementieva had beaten Williams in their last three encounters dating to 2007 in Moscow. The Russian also won in the Beijing Olympic quarters and Sydney semi-finals just under a fortnight ago.

The semi-final was played with the roof of the Rod Laver arena closed in outside air temperatures of mid 40s Celsius.

Williams was happy to get her win in some comfort.

“It suits anyone’s game because they don’t have to deal with the elements like the wind,” said Williams of the decision. “I was excited to play under the roof. It’s the same advantage for everyone.”

“I think it was the right decision to play indoor, we couldn’t survive outside in this temperature,” said Dementieva. “For sure you need to adjust a little bit, you know, with the roof closed because the ball goes a little bit faster and you really need some time to get used to it.

“But it was feeling pretty good out there.”

Williams rained down two aces in the final game to end a run of three consecutive breaks of serve, setting up two match points with her tenth ace of the afternoon.

“It wasn’t a perfect match for me, but it was better than the last round (when she had to fight back against Svetlana Kuznetsova).”

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