The rise of Russia as the biggest power in women’s tennis this year was confirmed this evening as Elena Dementieva reached the final of the US Open where she will meet her countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Dementieva won an epic match on Friday to end the hopes of hometown favourite Jennifer Capriati 6-0 2-6 7-6 (7-5).
Capriati, four times a semi-finalist in the Big Apple, has never yet reached the championship game in her home slam despite victories in the French and Australian Opens earlier in her career and the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics at Barcelona when she was still a schoolgirl.
Earlier, Kuznetsova, a 19-year-old from St Petersburg, had beaten another American in Lindsay Davenport who was struggling with a hip injury as she lost 1-6 6-2 6-4.
It completes a marvellous year for Russian women after Anastasia Myskina won the French Open, beating Dementieva in the all-Russian Paris final, while Siberian teenager Maria Sharapova was the surprise winner at Wimbledon.
Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium won the year’s other Grand Slam – the Australian Open and also the gold medal in the Athens Olympics but this has undoubtedly been the year of Russia’s crop of tennis ‘czarinas’.
However, France also had something to celebrate this year as Amelie Mauresmo will be the new world number one when the rankings are unveiled following Davenport’s elimination and Henin-Hardenne’s defeat earlier in the tournament.
Dementieva, seeded sixth, destroyed eight-ranked Capriati in the first set which she took to love in 17 minutes.
The Russian won the first nine points with Capriati showing none of the form that had enabled her to beat fellow American Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.
Capriati did not make a single winning shot in the first set and had to rely on rare errors from her opponent for the few points she did take.