x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Safina and Dementieva have ability to quash all American dream

An all-Russian women's singles final on Saturday may be unlikely considering the form that the American Williams sisters have shown, but it is possible.

LONDON // There could be . Unlikely, considering the form that the American Williams sisters have shown in approaching a repeat of last year's showdown. But it is possible. Nobody has been more clinical in reaching today's semi-finals than Elena Dementieva, the fourth seed who has conceded only 20 games in winning her five matches. She looks much stronger physically, especially in the upper arms, than she was in losing at the same stage a year ago to Venus. She goes into battle against Serena in good heart. Dementieva believes the key to her shattering Serena's powerful hopes of a third title here is in her first serve.

It must find the target regularly to avoid the risk of Serena feasting on a notoriously weak second delivery. "I just want to see how tough I can be against her out there," said Dementieva, whose Olympic gold medal from last year gives her greater confidence going into matches against the big guns of the women's game. "It's always very interesting to play against someone like Serena because she's a great champion," added Dementieva, who has recorded three victories in eight confrontations with the world No 2.

"She's very powerful on her first serve and I think her backhand is one of the best shots in her game." For the Russians to hold centre stage again a month after Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame Dinara Safina in the French Open final, the Williams sisters will have to have an off day and Dementieva and Safina will have to play out of their skins. Safina, the top seed and still world No 1 regardless of what happens in the next three days, knows it is high time she justified her standing in the game and there would be no better occasion than in an arena that Venus has made her own with five titles wins.

There could be an all-Russian final but do not bank on it. wjohnson@thenational.ae Order of play: 4-Elena Dementieva (Russia) v 2-Serena Williams (US) on Centre Court at 3pm; 1-Dinara Safina (Russia) v 3-Venus Williams (US)