After looking like it was going to be a Mauresmo/Safarova final, Nadia Petrova came back from the brink to upset the #2 seed Amelie Mauresmo 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(7).
In the first set, there were no breaks of serve for the first 11 games of the set. Both players had their chances, but neither were able to convert. Unfortunately for Nadia, she faced one too many break points and was broken at 5-6 to lose the first set 5-7. In the second set, Nadia broke only once and held on for the rest of the set. She faced two break points, but, showing signs of her first two matches, had no troubles saving them. Nadia served out the second set successfully to tie the match up.
This is where the match gets interesting. Nadia falls behind 1-4 in the third set, and victory seems assured of the Frenchwoman, propelled on by the partisan French crowd. Nadia somehow pulled back to 4-4. The third set eventually went on to a tiebreaker. Amelie led 7-6 in the tiebreaker and had her first match point (the first of either player). Nadia managed to save that break point and win the next 2 points in succession to defeat Mauresmo for the second time in their last two meetings; narrowing their head to head to a 4-5 Mauresmo advantage.
I was absolutely flabbergasted to see Nadia come back from the brink; considering she was unsuccessful against other players when put in the same position. However, this is a New Nadia. Doha 2006 was a turning point for the Russian. In that final, she also defeated Amelie, however, that match proved to be much easier for the Russian, who won in straight sets. This started Nadia’s run of 3 titles in a row (not counting Fed Cup), and her overall 5 titles in 2006. Nadia is proving more and more that she can beat the big players, on the bigger stages, no matter what the scoreline is.
In the final, she’ll play giant-killer Lucie Safarova. Safarova has beaten Nicole Vaidisova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and newly returning Justine Henin all in succession. Nadia and Lucie played twice last year, once at Amelia Island in the semifinals, and in the third round of Charleston. Both matches were on clay, and fell during Nadia’s time of complete dominance on the clay. The Russian took both matches in straight sets. Nadia knows that this match, however, taking place on a hard court, will have to be played at a much faster pace. This is something that everyone knows Nadia is capable of doing, with her big serve, big groundies, and near-indistructability at the net (all those doubles tournaments paid off!). She’ll need to (as she’s been doing in every match), keep the aces high and the double faults low (she had one more double in the Amelie match), keep the first serve points in her favor, and even more importantly, the second serve points in her favor (Nadia won 70% of her first serves and 60% of her second serves, great percentages against a top player). Finally, she’ll have to keep that Russian temper in check, lest she let the wily Safarova run away with the match.
In a few hours, Nadia will play Lucie in the final. She’ll compete for, not only the title, but the chance to close the gap between her and Martina Hingis, the woman who surpassed her during Nadia’s “absence” from the Australian Open.