Victory Column at Place du Chatelet
Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova have played each other thirteen times. Safina has won eight of those matches. However, they have won four each of the matches they have played on clay. This season, Kuznetsova is the only player to have beaten Safina on clay.
Technically speaking, Kuznetsova is the more skilled clay competitor. She can spin the ball very well, is comfortable at the net, and can sustain the stress of lengthy points. She is a good court thinker and a superb mover. Safina, on the other hand, is not as good a mover, but her entire strategy is to dictate points from the baseline--something she can do quite well. But Safina is no boring ball-basher; she has developed her own bag of clay court tricks over the past couple of years.
Kuznetsova is the more consistent server of the two; Safina's serve comes and goes. In the past, both players have shared the same major weakness--a fragile mentality. Whether one or both of them will
bring that mentality to the court tomorrow is a question I cannot answer, though it's hard to imagine either of them sustaining a cool head throughout the entire match. I am anticipating a good number of unforced errors from both of them, and Safina is also prone to double-faulting during big occasions.
Kuznetsova won the U.S. Open in 2004, and since then, she has been in the finals of two majors--the French Open in 2006 (defeated by Justine Henin) and the U.S. Open in 2007 (defeated by Henin). Safina has never won a major, but she was the finalist in last year's French Open (defeated by Ana Ivanovic) and in this year's Australian Open (defeated by Serena Williams). A win by either woman will bring about not only joy, but--undoubtedly--significant relief. The press is focusing on Safina's attempt to prove she deserves her number 1 status, but there is also pressure on her opponent to repeat a victory she has not experienced in five years.
Who will better hold her nerve and become the 2009 French Open champion?
Je ne sais pas.