Creature Vs. Creature: Kuznetsova More Battle-Tested Than Safina

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Creature Vs. Creature: Kuznetsova More Battle-Tested Than Safina
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

For Dinara Safina's side, check out Rohini's take.

Introduction

Saturday’s women’s final will be the third all-Russian Grand Slam championship in WTA history, as top-ranked Dinara Safina battles No. 7 and former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Much as been said about what it would mean for Safina to win her first: It would justify her top ranking, and make up for the disappointments she encountered in her previous slam finals.

Less has been said of what it would mean for her compatriot, who won her first major title nearly five years ago and is still trying to follow up.

Svetlana Kuznetsova

This now 23-year-old native of St. Petersburg was an unknown when she secured her maiden slam in 2004. After that no one expected the stout, 5’8 Kuznetsova to outdo fellow Russian Maria Sharapova in endorsement deals, but some who watched her felt she had as bright a future ahead of her on the tennis court.

That hasn’t been the case. Though she has reached two other slam finals, falling to Justine Henin in Paris in 2006 and New York in 2007, she failed to win a set either time.

She hasn’t exactly been dominant in this event, but has proven herself an excellent competitor, outlasting Serena Williams in the quarters and Samantha Stosur in the semis, both in three sets.

Will Win If

Though definitely the smaller player in Saturday’s final, Kuznetsova is known as a big hitter, a solid server who can hit winners on the forehand and backhand. Keeping her bigger compatriot on the run will be essential in this match, as well as getting back as many of Safina’s big serves as possible.

Safina has kept her famous family temper in check for most of this tournament, but the more difficult Kuznetsova can make this match for her the better the chances of a fatal meltdown.

Will Lose If

Of course, Kuznetsova has her own temper to contain, as well as a tendency to not close out tight matches. She won’t want a repeat of this year’s quarterfinal against Serena Williams, where she lost despite serving for the match.

Intangibles

Safina has looked extremely tough in this event, so a straight set victory for Kuznetsova is most likely not in the cards. If Kuznetsova can force a third set, however, it becomes anyone’s game.

Kuznetsova has already had a stern test of her nerves in this event against Williams and Stosur, and her strength, both physically and as a competitor, should give her the edge in a tight contest. Safina has one a three-setter in this event against Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, but the momentum in that encounter quickly swung Safina’s way when she took the third set.

A tight third-set in a major final Safina is expected to win may be more than she can handle.

Shots to Look For

Though virtually all of her shots are solid, Kuznetsova’s inside-out forehand is one of the best on the women’s tour. She’ll need it to be firing if she’s to have a chance against Safina.

My Call

If this match is over in two sets, Safina will likely be your champion. If it goes three, the edge may well shift to Kuznetsova.

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