All Russian finals have become commonplace on the WTA tour. This time, the setting was Sydney at the Medibank International where world number 3 Dinara Safina battled world number 4 Elena Dementieva. Elena beat Dinara 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 to remain undefeated and take her second title in 2009.
The first set was played predominately from the baseline with interminable rallies decided by unforced errors usually in Dementieva’s favor. For instance, with Dementieva serving at 2-3 and facing her first break point, Safina overplayed a forehand on the second serve return leading to deuce. Elena won that game with a backhand down the line winner. In the past, Dementieva’s serve has been infamous, however, Elena has improved that area of her game. Instead, it was Safina, who with consecutive double faults handed her rival a break point which she converted for a 4-3 lead. Then, Dementieva sealed the set with another break when Safina committed a multitude of unforced errors in a game where she led 40-15.
However, quickly changing gear, with a forehand crosscourt winner Safina got a break point in the opening game of the second set. Dinara capitalized when Elena’s backhand sailed long. After consolidating the break for 3-1, Safina made a backhand down the line winner for another break point and with a forehand error by Dementieva extended her lead to 4-1. Safina’s new strategy was to move forward when permitted which resulted in successful volleying. Safina finished second set on a high note, closing it at love.
But, in the third set, Safina did an about face. Although Dementieva’s defensive capability was a major factor, Safina’s poor shot selection contributed to her undoing. After easily securing the first game with an ace, Dementieva got two forehand errors from Safina to jump ahead 2-0. Later on, in a game where she led 40-0, Safina had three consecutive strokes go long, double faulted and was unable to catch up with a forehand down the line from Dementieva, giving her counterpart a quasi insurmountable advantage at 4-0. Yet, Safina staged a minor return by breaking Dementieva for 4-1. But, with Safina’s most reliable side, the backhand, also letting her down, Dementieva broke again for 5-1. On her third match point, Dementieva made a forehand winner to claim the trophy. With her semifinal win over Serena Williams, Dementieva is certainly in the mix for the Australian Open title.