For the second successive week, Russians Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova meet in the finals of a premier clay court tournament. At the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Safina, world number one, got the better of her compatriot 6-3, 6-2 to capture her first title of 2009.
Ahead 40-15 after Safina comfortably held serve, Kuznetsova double faulted and made a backhand down the line error for deuce. Then, with two more backhand errors, Safina had the break and a 2-0 lead. But, with a couple of forehands crosscourt long by Dinara, Svetlana obtained her first game. However, with another backhand down the line error by Kuznetsova, Safina was back on top 3-1. Multiple misses by Kuznetsova permitted Safina to consolidate for 4-1. After easily guarding serve for 2-4, Kuznetsova had triple break points after pressuring errors from Safina. Svetlana converted with a forehand crosscourt winner for 3-4. Following, an ill-advised dropshot on a deep service return, Kuznetsova faced break point. After Safina let her off the hook with a backhand error, Kuznetsova made a bunch of forehand errors to give Safina the break and a 5-3 advantage. Safina pulled the curtain on the first set with forehand volley winner.
What a difference a few days make! Unlike the finals in Stuttgart, Safina could do no wrong, connecting on over 80% of her first serves, while Kuznetsova suffered from unforced error syndrome. Serving at 1 all, despite having three game points, Kuznetsova pulled the trigger too early as a consequence of Safina’s heavy shots and was broken. After Safina held serve for 3-1, Kuznetsova committed four straight errors allowing Safina to widen her margin by a double break. Then, at 1-5, after leading 40-15, Kuznetsova’s errors resulted in Safina getting to deuce. Subsequently, with a backhand up the line winner, Safina attained match point. With a courageous winner off a dropshot by Dinara, Svetlana was at deuce and later held serve for 2-5. With Safina serving for the championship, Kuznetsova had double break point. But, Kuznetsova, unable to rein in the errors, let one more opportunity get away. With another errant forehand by Kuznetsova, Safina sealed the championship putting an end to her rival’s nine match winning streak.
This was an amazing performance by the world number one coming on the heels of a semifinal win over Venus Williams in a three set thriller that took over three hours in which Safina was down a set and a break. With Venus’ great run in Rome, she will ascend to number three, her highest ranking since 2003. Serena Williams, world number two, lost in the second round to Swiss Patty Schynder. With the goal of rewarding good play, for the first time, only the semifinalists in Rome will have a first round bye in Madrid this upcoming week. Victoria Azarenka will be one of the lucky four after falling to Kuznetsova.