Russia's Elena Dementieva, the Beijing Olympics gold medalist, swept past top seed Serena Williams in just 68 minutes at the Sydney International to set up a final showdown against the world number three, fellow Russian Dinara Safina.
REUTERS - Elena Dementieva overpowered a weary Serena Williams 6-3 6-1 at the Sydney International on Thursday to set up an all-Russian final against Dinara Safina.
Dementieva cruised to victory against the American, who ran out of steam after a gruelling run to the last four in which she had saved seven match points in her earlier rounds.
"I wasn't moving as I wanted to today," Williams said. "I gave it away more than anything. I made a lot of errors and made her look like a champ."
Dementieva, unbeaten in nine matches this season after winning the Auckland Classic last week, faces Safina in Friday's final after she beat Japan's Ai Sugiyama 6-4 7-6 in blistering heat at the Olympic tennis centre.
The two Russians also played each other in last year's Beijing Olympic final, with Dementieva winning the gold medal and Safina was expecting another classic encounter.
"When you are playing against the best players there is no tactic," said Safina, ranked third in the world, one place higher than Dementieva.
"You just go out there and play your game. She'll play her game and I will play my game and let's see who will be stronger that day."
Dementieva has been the form player in the lead-up to next week's Australian Open but had also been feeling the effects of the scorching summer heat.
She pulled out of her semi-final against Samantha Stosur four years ago because of the conditions and feared the worst when the temperature rose to 41.2 degrees Celcius during Safina's match with Sugiyama before a late change cooled down the court.
"I think we were a little bit lucky today to play second match on because the of the heat. It was really difficult to play at noon," Dementieva said.
"I'm just very excited being in the final here for the first time. It's going to be my second final of the year, so it's great.
"I realise how tough it's going to be to play against Dinara tomorrow. She's in great shape right now but it's going to be a great experience anyway."
Williams was well below her best on Thursday, looking drained from her efforts in getting to the semi-finals but said it had still been the perfect build-up to the Australian Open.
The world number two saved four match points in her first round win over Stosur on Sunday then another three in her quarter-final win over Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday.
"It was good to have a few matches under my belt getting ready for Melbourne," Williams said. "I feel like I'm going play a lot better than what I did this week."
Date created : 2009-01-15