Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lawn Tennis: Belief Carries Safina to Win

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lawn Tennis: Belief Carries Safina to Win

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMIE STRICKLAND

DINARA Safina revealed the memory of her epic victory against Maria Sharapova in the last 16 of the French Open was the catalyst for her follow-up triumph against Elena Dementieva yesterday, writes JAMIE STRICKLAND.

Safina reached the final four of a grand slam for the first time with a hugely entertaining 4-6 7-6 (7/5) 6-0 win over fellow Russian Dementieva in a match that had eerie parallels with her victory over top seed Sharapova two days earlier.

The 22-year-old found herself a set and 5-2 down in both matches but each time managed to mount a stunning salvage operation to win in three sets and line up an all-Russian semi-final against Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Asked whether her fightback in the previous round had crossed her mind when trailing to Dementieva, Safina replied: "Of course. Once you went through this you always believe: why not a second time? The match is still not over

"I felt like I had to hang in there just to do something more." Safina, the sister of two-time grand slam winner Marat Safin, came into the French Open on the back of the biggest title win of her career at the German Open in Berlin last month.

On that occasion she won three-set encounters against Justine Henin - playing her final match before her surprise retirement - and Serena Williams.

With two more come-from-behind wins under her belt in Paris, she is now developing a well-earned reputation as a player who never knows when she is beaten, a trait which she herself attributes to substantial improvements in her fitness.

"Before, when I would play with top players, I would lose a set and for me it would be mentally and physically tough to come back," she said.

"Now, I physically feel that if I have to play two sets, for one hour each, I am able to do this. If you know that physically you can do this, then mentally it's also easier."

After booking her place in the semis with a 7-5 6-2 win over unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi earlier in the day, fourth seed Kuznetsova denied that the prospect of becoming the world number one was weighing on her mind. …

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