Safina, Kuznetsova to face off in final

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PARIS --- Dinara Safina cursed at herself in English, muttered to herself in Russian and generally carried on in much the same manner of older brother Marat Safin.

Top-ranked Dinara Safina returns the ball to No. 20-seeded Dominika Cibulkova during the French Open semifinals. Safina will be playing for the title for the second year in a row Saturday.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Top-ranked Dinara Safina returns the ball to No. 20-seeded Dominika Cibulkova during the French Open semifinals. Safina will be playing for the title for the second year in a row Saturday.

Safina's face bears a striking resemblance to Safin's, and she shares his broad shoulders, too. Both have been ranked No. 1 -- the only brother-sister combo to do so -- and now Safina is one victory from joining Safin as a Grand Slam champion.

Yearning to justify her ranking and live up to her bloodlines by winning a major title, the top-seeded Safina overcame a poor start Thursday and held her temper in check enough to beat No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3 and reach the French Open final for the second year in a row.

"I'm trying to control my emotions," Safina said. "I'm not playing my best, but still, it's not easy to beat me."

Not lately: Safina has won 20 of 21 matches since rising to No. 1 in April. The only woman to defeat her in that span, 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, will get another crack at Safina on Saturday in the third all-Russian major final in tennis history.

The seventh-seeded Kuznet-sova seemed well on her way to an easy semifinal victory, but she stumbled a bit before getting past No. 30 Samantha Stosur, of Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3.

"She's going to be favorite to win," Kuznetsova said, looking toward her match with Safina. "She's No. 1. She played an unbelievable season."

Safina holds a 7-4 career edge over Kuznetsova, including a win in last year's French Open semifinals. The two go back about a decade, to age 12 or 13, when Kuznetsova was living in St. Petersburg, and Safina in Moscow, where her father was the director of a tennis club and her mother was a coach who started Safin on his way to titles at the 2000 U.S. Open and the 2005 Australian Open.

"I had no chance playing against her. I remember, I lose to her 6-1, 6-0 or something," Kuznetsova said. "She was very good then, and then her brother was huge. I was coming to Marat, 'Hey, I know your sister, Dinara. Can you give me autograph?'"

The women's semifinals figured to be mismatches: Neither Stosur nor Cibulkova had been past the fourth round at any Grand Slam tournament until this week -- and neither has won a singles title on tour.

"I was just lost on the court today," Cibulkova said. "I didn't manage it well."

Safina won five consecutive games to go ahead 5-2, and that was pretty much that.

"Once I was down I started to play better," Safina said, "but I think still I have to be much more dominant."


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