Sunday, August 3, 2008

Safina and Cibulkova to meet in Montreal final

I saw the first set of the semifinal between Marion Bartoli and Dominika Cibulkova. Then the rain came, and by the time the match resumed, it was played not only on an outer court, but also away from my television screen. Bartoli looked great in the first set, but Cibulkova is a formidable opponent. She had already taken out Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic before she reached the semifinals. The first time I saw Cibulkova play, in the spring of 2007, I was struck by the maturity of her game, and by her court presence. She looks even better now.

But Cibulkova will have some work to do to win the Rogers Cup, for her opponent is Dinara Safina, whose 2008 is turning into a glory year. Safina's obvious love of court drama was fulfilled in her semifinal against Victoria Azarenka. She won the first set, 6-0, then turned cautious in the second set, just as Azarenka worked up a full head of steam. After Azarenka took that set 6-2, I felt pretty sure Safina would snap back into the match, and she did. She served for it at 5-1 in the third, but was broken, and wound up winning the set 6-3.

Right now, Safina's only real weakness is her serve, or rather, the inconsistency of her serve. It ranges from brilliant to totally off the mark--often within the same game, a la Justine Henin.

This will be Cibulkova's second tour final. She was in the Amelia Island final this year, but sustained a foot injury during the match and kind of faded away. Maria Sharapova won that tournament, but if Cibulkova had not hurt her foot, I think the outcome may have been different.

It should also be noted that the doubles team of Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta upset the 2nd seeds, Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, Saturday--6-4, 6-0.

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