Elena Dementieva continued her winning streak leading into the Australian Open, beating Dinara Safina 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in yesterday’s Sydney International final.
Dementieva won the Auckland title last week and enters the season’s first major as the No. 4 seed and on a 10-match winning streak.
She beat fellow Russian Safina yesterday in a repeat of the Beijing Olympic final result in August, a day after ousting top-seeded Serena Williams.
“This is great, to have all this pressure after winning two titles,” she said. “Would it be better if I am just going to lose first round and play without pressure in Australia? No. It’s great to have all these matches played here and in Auckland and coming to Australia with the pressure, I love it, I really do.”
In the men’s semi-finals, Novak Djokovic lost 6-4, 7-6 (3) to Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen, missing another chance to move to a career-high No. 2 ranking.
The 21-year-old Serbian needed to reach the Sydney final to overhaul Roger Federer at No. 2 in the rankings when the Australian Open starts on Monday.
Nieminen next faces Argentina’s David Nalbandian, who reached his 20th ATP Tour final with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Richard Gasquet.
“My forehand didn’t really work and you could see in all the important moments he served to my forehand and I couldn’t put the ball in,” Djokovic said. “Just a bad day. But we keep on going.”
The 27-year-old Nalbandian, who has nine tour titles and was a runner-up at Wimbledon in 2002, overpowered Gasquet, relying on backhand winners and attacking the Frenchman’s second serve.
Nalbandian won nine straight points to close out the first set and open a break in the second.
Gasquet broke back in the sixth game of the second set, helped by a between-the-legs shot from behind the baseline that he turned into a winner. Even Nalbandian applauded the shot.
But the comeback didn’t last. Nalbandian broke again to take a 4-3 lead and, after wasting three match points from 0-40 on Gasquet’s serve in the ninth game, he converted on his fourth.
Gasquet didn’t help himself, giving Nalbandian triple match point with a double-fault and a fourth match point with another.
“Every day, I feel more feeling on the ball and on the game, so it’s good playing a few matches and to be in the finals here,” Nalbandian said. “I have to keep going and believing in my game and try to do a good match tomorrow.”
Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic made her first WTA final a winning one, beating compatriot Iveta Benesova 7-5, 6-1 yesterday at the Hobart International.
The 18-year-old broke her Fed Cup teammate’s serve twice in the first set before powering away from her more experienced rival in the second set. It was the first all-Czech WTA final since 2005.
Benesova, ranked No. 41, reached the Hobart final in 2006 and was trying to win her first WTA tournament in five years. Her one title came at Acapulco, Mexico in 2004.
Kvitova and Benesova share coach David Kotyza, who was not sighted court-side during the match after saying he would not be able to watch if both his players won through to the final.
Kvitova and Benesova also shared a hotel room in Hobart.
“I don’t know if I can call her a friend anymore,” Benesova joked with the crowd. “We are sharing a room, but I think I will kick her out tonight.”