More magic for Safina

More comeback magic for Safina
By Reuters

04/06/2008 at 13:45Updated

Dinara Safina stunningly battled back from the brink of defeat for a second straight match to earn a place in her first Grand Slam semi-final at the French Open.

The 13th seeded Russian, who came back from a set and 5-2 down to stun world number one Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, did so again in the quarter-finals to beat seventh seed Elena Dementieva in another three-set thriller.

Safina, the younger sister of former men's world number one Marat Safin, overcame her fellow Russian 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-0 after saving a match point and breaking back twice in the second set.

"I think I changed my game completely at 5-2 (in the second set)," she said.

"I did not hit the ball anymore, it was like extra ball, extra ball and extra ball. She got confused because it was her who had to hit the winner."

After surviving the two hour 36 minute-battle, Safina will be hoping to keep alive her dreams of adding a third grand slam trophy to the family collection when she meets compatriot and fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the last four.

Marat triumphed in the 2000 U.S. Open and the 2005 Australian Open.

Safina stepped on to Centre Court with a 3-0 record on red dirt against Dementieva, the last one in the German Open final last month.

Both players started confidently on serve, the first break point coming in the fifth game for Dementieva, with Safina shrugging it off with a backhand winner.

Dementieva also saved two break points in the sixth before stealing her opponent's serve in the ninth, following up to take the opening set after 43 minutes.

Regular as a clockwork, Dementieva sent her rival scampering from one end of the court to the other. Unable to break up her opponent's rhythm, a frustrated Safina's only answer was to attempt some clumsy drop shots.

True to form, Safina reacted by shouting, throwing her racket to the court, slamming the balls on the ground and whacking the Centre Court's geranium display.

As Safina looked to be heading for the exit, a confident Dementieva raced into a 5-2 lead.

Then the tide turned.

Safina took a step back from her baseline, putting more top-spin in her shots, wearing out her opponent's patience to break for 5-3.

After serving a double fault, Safina had a match point against her but just as she did against Sharapova, she saved it with a winner.

After Safina broke again to level the set at 5-5, Dementieva saved three break points in the 11th game, including winning a 29-stroke rally.

Safina also held serve and won the resulting tiebreak 7-5 with a backhand winner dropping on the baseline.

Dementieva totally collapsed after losing the 80-minute second set, often looking at her teary-eyed mother in the stands for encouragement, but it was all too late and she sent a forehand long to give Safina another huge confidence boost.

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