US Open – Imposing Williams returns to US final
The fourth-seeded American, who last played the Flushing Meadows title match in 2002 when she won her second U.S. crown, will meet second seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia with the world number one ranking also going to the winner.
Jankovic defeated Olympic champion Elena Dementieva of Russia 6-4 6-4 to advance to her first grand slam final.
“It’s so awesome,” Williams, who hopped up and down with joy after her service winner clinched victory, said courtside.
“I’m just happy to be finally back in the finals,” added the eight-times grand slam winner, whose 2002 title match against sister Venus marked the last time the women’s final here featured an American.
“For once, an American back in the finals here so I’m really excited.”
Williams dealt best with blustery winds that blew groundstrokes wide and long, and played havoc with serve tosses that sometimes strayed too far to hit and ended up bouncing towards the net.
Russian Safina broke the 26-year-old Williams in the opening game of the match but soon became frustrated with the gusting winds arriving ahead of an expected storm front.
Safina, who was initially successful in pounding her powerful forehand, gave the break back in the fourth game and was broken again in the eighth game on four errors to trail 5-3.
The Russian, who had been red-hot with six trips to the finals in her last seven events including three wins, shrieked after mis-hits flew off her racket and at one point yelled, “I hate this wind!” She logged 41 unforced errors in the match.
Williams saved two breakpoints serving for the set in the next game and clinched it when Safina drove a forehand dead into the ground at the base of the net.
The second set started with three service breaks with the American emerging 2-1 ahead.
In the third game, Williams showed some of the fire she displayed in her quarter-final victory over sister Venus, drilling a forehand into Safina’s chest from close range after racing in to hit a short ball.
Williams eased back after that, satisfied to keep balls in play and wait for Safina to make mistakes in the difficult conditions. She had just 21 unforced errors in the match.
“I thought, okay, if it’s so windy then I’m not going to go for so many winners and stay out here and do what I can,” explained Williams.
Safina lost serve again in the fifth game and Williams romped to victory on her first match point with a thundering serve up the middle that the Russian could not handle.
At the net, Williams apologised to Safina, saying she meant no harm on the drive that struck the Russian and the two walked off amicably.
Williams said she looked forward to a spirited title match against Jankovic.
“I think she’s playing really well and she’s just having so much fun,” Williams said. “She has nothing to lose and neither do I.”
Safina said she let herself down by acting like a “spoilt girl”.
“I think I was behaving like a really spoilt girl today,” Safina said.
“I have to learn from these things if I want to get better. If I want to make one step in front, I have to learn to handle my emotions better.”
Safina, runner-up at both the French Open and Olympics, said the windy conditions had contributed to her bad body language.
“I think today I was feeling physically better than previous days but it’s too bad behaviour from my side.
“Maybe I was 80 percent physically and mentally but I spent 60 of it being negative on the court, like shooting around and complaining about everything.”
Safina said the way Williams coped with the conditions and the occasion was something she would like to replicate in future.
“I could see she was having some problems at first and I was 2-0 up with a break but she behaved like a champion,” she said.
“She also had some wind problems, but she was there and she was fighting with me, and I was fighting with everything around except her. This I can learn from her.”