PARIS – Dinara Safina cursed at herself in English, muttered to herself in Russian and generally carried on in much the same manner of older brother Marat Safin.
Safina’s face bears a striking resemblance to Safin’s, and she shares his broad shoulders, too. Both have been ranked No. 1 — the only brother-sister combo to do so — and now Safina is one victory from joining Safin as a Grand Slam champion.
Yearning to justify her ranking and live up to her bloodlines by winning a major title, the top-seeded Safina overcame a poor start Thursday and held her temper in check enough to beat No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova, 6-3, 6-3, and reach a second consecutive French Open final.
“I’m trying to control my emotions,” Safina said. “I’m not playing my best, but still, it’s not easy to beat me.”
Not lately: Safina has won 20 of 21 matches since rising to No. 1 in April. The only woman to defeat her in that span, 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, will get another crack at Safina on Saturday in the third all-Russian major final in tennis history.
The seventh-seeded Kuznetsova seemed well on her way to an easy semifinal victory, but she stumbled a bit before getting past No. 30 Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
“She’s going to be favorite to win,” Kuznetsova said, looking toward her match with Safina. “She’s No. 1. She played an unbelievable season.”
Safina holds a 7-4 career edge over Kuznetsova, including a win in last year’s French Open semifinals. The two go back about a decade, when Kuznetsova was living in St. Petersburg, and Safina in Moscow, where her father was the director of a tennis club and her mother was a coach who started Safin on his way to titles at the 2000 U.S. Open and 2005 Australian Open.
“I had no chance playing against her. I remember, I lose to her 6-1, 6-0 or something,” Kuznetsova said. “She was very good then, and then her brother was huge. I was coming to Marat, ‘Hey, I know your sister, Dinara. Can you give me autograph?’ ”