After winning the hard way in earlier rounds, Dinara Safina finally made life easy for herself to reach the final of the French Open on Thursday.
The 22-year-old Russian continued her dream run at Roland Garros by booking her place in her first ever grand slam final with a 6-3 6-2 victory over an off-key Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Safina had to fight back from a set and 2-5 down in each of her last two matches to eliminate top seed Maria Sharapova in the last 16 and Elena Dementieva in the quarter-finals, and the straightforward manner of this latest win will be welcome ahead of Saturday’s final.
Both players struggled to get to grips with their serves in the opening set, but it was Kuznetsova who was labouring most, the fourth seed dropping her first service game without much of a fight.
The players shared out four further service breaks in the next six games to leave Safina serving for the match at 5-4, but the see-saw nature of the first set meant it was far from a formality.
But Safina pulled it together when it counted, bringing up two set points with a delicious drop-shot before Kuznetsova fired long after a superb rally to hand her opponent the opener after 39 minutes.
The second set began in much the same manner as the first, Safina enjoying the early break of service as an increasingly frustrated Kuznetsova struggled to hit her stride.
Kuznetsova briefly rallied to break back and then hold to love for 2-1, but again her demons returned as the winners began to elude her in the next game.
An enthralling rally in the fifth game that featured just about every shot in the manual culminated in break point for Safina, which she converted for 3-2 to finally break the waning spirit of Kuznetsova.
Safina, younger sister ATP player Marat Safin, showed all of her brother’s dogged determination in the next game as she fended off a crucial break point to hold, and when Kuznetsova failed to hold serve in the next game, the writing was on the wall.
Safina duly held in the next after rallying from 0-30, the moment of victory arriving as Kuznetsova scooped an easy forehand wide from the baseline.
Safina revealed afterwards that her miraculous escapes from the brink of elimination in the earlier rounds made her more aggressive on court against Kuznetsova.
“I had to be aggressive, because there will be no third chance that this will happen,” she said.
“I think I was confident, like there’s nothing else that can happen. I went through everything to the final, so I had confidence in everything.”
The 22-year-old, who won her biggest title to date at last month’s German Open, added that she was unfazed to be in her first grand slam final.
“I think I will just take it as another match and just focus on myself and what I have to do,” she said.
“I have to do the things that I know to do, and try to avoid thinking as much as I can about the fact that this is the final.
“It’s still the same court and still the same ball. It’s just how I take it in my mind; how I prepare for the final.”