It`s Russia against Serbia in French Open tennis duel
Russia and Serbia ensured they will contest the French Open women`s title match as Wednesday`s quarter-finals ended in another rollercoaster win for Moscow comeback queen Dinara Safina.
The 13th seeded Russian, who recovered from a set and 2-5 down, as well as saving a match point, to defeat top seed Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, produced a virtual carbon copy to see off compatriot Elena Dementieva.
Safina, the sister of former men`s world number one Marat, will now take on another Russian, fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, for a place in the final.
Kuznetsova, tipped by many to succeed the now-retired Justine Henin as champion, moved into her second Roland Garros semi-final with a comfortable 7-5, 6-2 win over Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
Thursday`s other semi-final will feature an all-Serbian tussle between the 2007 runner-up Ana Ivanovic, the second seed, and third seed Jelena Jankovic.
Adding further spice is that Sharapova`s defeat means that by Saturday night, either Ivanovic, Jankovic or Kuznetsova will succeed the sport`s glamour girl as world number one.
Safina looked down and out in the second set against Dementieva before performing another memorable turnaround to win 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-0 after running away with 11 of the last 12 games.
She had been 2-5 down in the second set and saved a match point in the ninth game.
Safina, 22, said that she has improved on her physical fitness since the start of the year and saw the hard graft pay off when she came back from first set losses to Henin, Serena Williams and Dementieva on her way to collecting the Berlin title in May.
"This is real breakthrough for me, my first Grand Slam semi-final," said Safina.
"I had many disappointing losses at the start of the year but I hung in there and promised myself I`d work harder. Now that patience and work is paying off.
"Everything is coming together. I`m stronger and keep my emotions under control."
Kuznetsova, the runner-up in 2006 and US Open champion in 2004, said she didn`t know what to expect from the unpredictable Safina although she has won their last two meetings, including the 2006 quarter-final here.
"I`m the favourite, but this is something I`m used to because I play most of the matches and I`m favourite, so I take it as it comes," said Kuznetsova.
"It`s going to be very tough match. Dinara is playing very well on clay courts. She won Berlin, she won two matches here when she had match points against her. She has many lives, so I`ll have to be careful."
In the other semi-final, it`s Serb against Serb where either Ivanovic or Jankovic will be left just one match away from delivering a first female Grand Slam title to the Balkan country hard on the heels of compatriot Novak Dkojovic`s landmark win for the men at the Australian Open in January.
The more powerful Ivanovic is the younger at 20 and will be bidding for a third Grand Slam final in the past year having lost to Henin here last year and to Sharapova in the Australian Open in January.
Jankovic, at 23, has yet to make a major final, but she will be playing in her fourth Grand Slam semi-final and she has experience and probably mental fortitude on on her side.
The two suprisingly are not that close having gone down different paths to get to the top.
"Obviously, we come from the same country, so we know each other for a long time," said Ivanovic, who will be the world No.1 should she win the title.
"When she was younger she went to America and I went to Switzerland, so we didn`t really have the chance to practice together or to hang out much."
Jankovic, who has been struggling with tendonitis in her right arm and shoulder brought on, she says, by the heavy balls in use at Roland Garros this year, has no doubt that her rivalry with Ivanovic is set to last.
"I think we`re going to be dominating this tennis world soon," she said.