Melbourne, Jan 29: Dinara Safina overpowered her fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 on Thursday to join Serena Williams in the final of the Australian Open.
The combination of Safina's heavier shot-making and aggression proved too much for Zvonareva as the third seed closed out victory in one hour and 46 minutes under a closed roof at the Rod Laver Arena.
Safina won four games in a row to take the opening set after trailling 2-3 then broke Zvonareva's brittle serve to force the tiebreak after the seventh seed blew her chance to force a deciding third set.
The winner of Saturday's final will receive an added bonus of taking over the world number one ranking from Serbia's Jelena Jankovic, who was knocked out in the fourth round at Melbourne Park this year.
"Since I was growing up it has been my dream one day to be number one," Safina said in a courtside interview.
"To play against Serena and to fight for the number one is just going to be unbelievable.
"I just hope it will be a good match that we can all enjoy and whoever wins, we'll shake hands at the end of the match and say 'well you deserve to be number one'."
Safina is also trying to complete a unique family double in Australia by emulating her older brother Marat Safin, who won the men's singles title in 2005.
"I watched my brother on TV winning this tournament and even when I watch it now I have tears in my eyes," Safina said.
"It is great that I can follow his footsteps because he was my idol and he is still my idol. That I'm doing as well as him is just amazing.
"It was his birthday two days ago, maybe I have earned some money to buy him a gift."
Safina had struggled throughout the tournament, surviving two match points in an extraordinary comeback to beat French teenager Alize Cornet in the fourth round, but was at her best against Zvonareva.
She still committed a whopping 42 unforced errors but there was no repeat of the lapses in concentration that plagued her in the early rounds.
Zvonareva, who had won all her previous matches in straight sets, made a nervous start to her maiden Grand Slam semi-final, double-faulting on the second point of the match to concede her opening service game to love.
The 24-year-old Muscovite steadied herself to comfortably hold her next service game then started attacking Safina's serve, which was starting to show signs of vulnerability.
Zvonareva broke back to level at 2-2 then held again to lead 3-2 before Safina seized control, cutting down on her errors and putting the pressure back on her opponent.
Safina, who has shed seven kilogram's in the last year and showed off her new figure in a canary yellow shirt and black skirt, reeled off the next four games to wrap up the opening set in 39 minutes off a Zvonareva backhand error.
Zvonareva, dressed in a more conservative all-white dress, broke Safina's serve in the fifth game of the second set but failed to capitalise on her advantage.
She dropped her next service game and her frustrations started to boil over when she disputed a line call with American chair umpire Lynn Welch then slapped the ball away in anger.
Zvonareva had the chance to force a third set when she broke in the 11th game but failed to hold and lost the tiebreak and the match on a crosscourt forehand winner from Safina.