Serena sweeps Dementieva to advance to Australian Open final, will face Zvonareva-Safina winner:Hot and Latest News
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Serena sweeps Dementieva to advance to Australian Open final, will face Zvonareva-Safina winner

MELBOURNE, Australia - Second-seeded Serena Williams advanced to the Australian Open final, beating Elena Dementieva of Russia in straight sets.
With the roof closed at Rod Laver Arena due to outside temperatures of 111 degrees, the American beat the fourth-seeded Dementieva 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday.

Dementieva had a 3-0 lead in the second set before Williams, helped by consecutive double faults by the Russian in the fifth game, won four games in a row. After the pair exchanged service breaks, Williams held her serve to clinch the match.

Williams won the Australian Open in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

No. 3 Dinara Safina played No. 7 Vera Zvonareva in the second semifinal. The match was not complete at press time.

On the men’s side, the way Rafael Nadal sees it, one good thing will come from the first all-Spanish semifinal in a hotly contested Australian Open.

A Spaniard will reach the final.

After improving one round on each of his previous four trips to Melbourne Park, odds are it will be top-ranked Nadal, who finished off a 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 win over No. 6 Gilles Simon on Wednesday as the temperature dipped to 93 from a daytime high of 109 degrees.

Nadal will meet another Spanish left-hander for a spot in the final after Fernando Verdasco ousted 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

“I think it’s incredible for us,” Nadal said. “One will be in the finals, so we have to be happy with that.”

No Spanish man has won the Australian title. Nadal reached the semifinals last year without dropping a set, but was upset by Tsonga.

He rebounded from that to win the French Open for the fourth straight time, then ended Roger Federer’s five-year reign at Wimbledon and his 237-week stretch at No. 1.

Verdasco had his time in the sun in November, when he guided Spain to victory in the Davis Cup final at Argentina while Nadal was absent, recovering from knee tendinitis.

If he thought the atmosphere was intense in Argentina, he agreed it was stifling in Melbourne. But that hasn’t stopped Verdasco from going past his best previous run of a fourth-round exit at a major.

Wednesday marked the start of what weather forecasters were predicting would be a once-in-a-century heat wave for the city. Hardy trees accustomed to a decade of drought were wilting. Dead or dying moths flopped onto the courts.

Nadal, a Majorca native, was relieved he’d been given a night match, and joked about burning his feet when he went outside to practice earlier in the afternoon.

“Believe me, I never feel the same like today when I was warming up outside,” he said. “The conditions were very hot. I couldn’t walk.”

The women’s quarterfinalists didn’t see the humor in it.

Serena Williams agreed the cool air conditioning revived her game after she’d dropped the first set against Svetlana Kuznetsova in her quarterfinal. With the temperature nudging 104, the Extreme Heat policy came into play and the stadium roof was closed.

Williams still had to work to force a third set, breaking Kuznetsova in the 10th game of the second when the Russian was serving for the match. That was the start of a dominating run, when she won nine of the next 10 games in a 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 victory.

Williams said playing in the brutal heat felt like an “out-of-body experience.” The break to close the roof after the first set had Kuznetsova fuming.

“Why should I not be?” Kuznetsova said. “Game going my way. I was very comfortable playing outside. It’s two different games.”

Williams moved within two wins of a fourth Australian title and will meet Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva in Thursday’s semifinals.

The fourth-seeded Dementieva beat 20-year-old Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2 in a match played entirely in the baking sun.

The 27-year-old Russian said she couldn’t understand the tournament’s heat policy or why the roof wasn’t closed for her game.

But the two-time Grand Slam finalist said she’ll take conditions as they came on Thursday, when she’s one of three Russians in the semis. Tournament organizers said they couldn’t make a decision on closing the roof based on forecasts and had to wait until closer to the match to decide whether to close the roof.

No. 3 Dinara Safina played No. 7 Vera Zvonareva in the second semifinal.

Federer, seeking a record-equaling 14th Grand Slam singles title to match Pete Sampras’ career record, was playing American Andy Roddick in the night semifinal.

No. 2 Federer, who is 15-2 against Roddick and 6-0 in Grand Slams, lost in the semifinals to Novak Djokovic last year. No. 7 Roddick beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

No. 14 Verdasco became the lowest ranked of the semifinalists when he beat Simon and is hoping to replicate Tsonga’s ‘08 run.

Nadal owns a 6-0 record against him, including a French Open quarterfinal last year when Verdasco won only three games. But the 22-year-old Nadal has seen vast improvement in Verdasco, who reached the final in Brisbane in a tuneup event and has now won five straight matches on hard courts for the first time.

His five-set win over Andy Murray, considered by many as a tournament favorite after recent wins over Nadal and Federer, grabbed attention.

“Fernando is playing at his best level,” Nadal said. “I never played against him when he’s playing at the level like right now, because I think he never played at this level before.”

Verdasco said the Davis Cup victory, when he had to rally from 2-1 down to win the deciding singles match, was a turning point.

“That Davis Cup, it change my life so much and gave me a lot of confidence,” the 25-year-old Verdasco said. “Mentally made me much stronger for these matches here, five-set matches, and also with a lot of pressure, because it’s a Grand Slam.

“That (win) in Argentina makes me grow up a lot.”

Until then, he was more famous for posing nude for a magazine to promote men’s health.

Verdasco did some off-season work with Gil Reyes in Las Vegas and had a two-hour discussion with Andre Agassi, a four-time Australian Open champion.

“For me, Rafa is the toughest player in five-set matches ... (and) is going to be the toughest match possible, Verdasco said.

“Right now I’m believing so much about me, about my game,” he added. “I’m feeling pretty good, and I just think that I can beat anyone.”


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