Showing uncharacteristic calm, Kuznetsova earned her second Grand Slam
title. Jitters have often betrayed Kuznetsova down the stretch in big
matches, but she swept the final four games with steady play.
Instead it was the top-ranked Safina who battled her
emotions in the all-Russian matchup. She double-faulted seven times,
struggled with her movement and appeared near tears late in the match.
"Today I think she was too tight," the
seventh-seeded Kuznetsova said. "She had so much pressure on her. But I
could bring my better game today, that's why I won."
Four-time French Open champion Justine Henin and
others have criticized Safina's ranking because she has yet to win a
major title. She climbed to No. 1 in April and will remain there
through at least late July, but she's now 0-3 in Grand Slam finals.
The younger sister of two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin was runner-up at Roland Garros last year to Ana Ivanovic.
"Hopefully, one day I can win here," Safina said during the trophy ceremony, her voice cracking.
The loss ended her 16-match winning streak.
On Sunday, Roger Federer will play in his fourth
consecutive Roland Garros final, with one big difference this year:
He's facing Robin Soderling, not Rafael Nadal. Federer will bid for his
14th major title to match Pete Sampras' record, and he'll try to become
the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam titles.
Soderling will play in his first major final after upsetting four-time defending champion Nadal in the fourth round.
Kuznetsova beat 10-time Grand Slam champion Serena
Williams in the quarter-finals, and against Safina she had the more
varied game, mixing the angle and pace of her groundstrokes as she
scooted across the clay. She hit an occasional drop shot and won all
six points when she came to the net.
Cool, damp weather made for slower conditions that
lessened the impact of Safina's booming groundstrokes. And her serve
was woeful: Safina lost more than half her service points and was
broken five times.
She double-faulted for the last time on championship
point, then slammed her racket to the court, and Kuznetsova's reaction
to the victory was subdued. The two finalists, whose friendly rivalry
dates back a decade, traded kisses on the cheek at the net. Kuznetsova
then allowed herself a brief smile and acknowledged the cheering crowd
by patting her chest.