Russian Elena Dementieva stretched her winning streak to nine matches with a dominant straight sets victory over a subdued Serena Williams to reach the final of the Medibank International Sydney on Thursday.
The world number four pounded away the winners, only dropped her serve once, and gave the tournament top seed no way out in reeling off a 6-3, 6-1 win in 68 minutes.
That set up a rematch of last year’s Beijing Olympics gold medal final against second seed Dinara Safina in an all-Russian night decider on Friday.
Dementieva’s form matched the blistering heat as the Olympic champion sent the nine-time grand slam champion crashing out, breaking Williams’s serve five times for her third win over the reigning US Open champion in seven meetings.
Dementieva is coming off her tournament victory in last week’s Auckland Classic where she didn’t drop a set in five matches and beat compatriot Elena Vesnina in the final.
Williams was backing up from her 2hr 40min struggle with Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki late Wednesday, when she saved three match points before prevailing in a third-set tie-breaker.
“I wasn’t moving as I wanted to today,” Williams said. “I gave it away more than anything. I made a lot of errors and made her look like a champ, really. I just pretty much gave her the match.”
While Dementieva is looking to go to Melbourne and improve on her lamentable Australian Open record, where she hasn’t got past the fourth round in 10 attempts, three-time champion Williams is expected to go into the year’s first grand slam as the women’s favourite.
Safina broke through a wall of intense heat and the resistance of Japan’s Ai Sugiyama to reach her first Medibank International Sydney final at the fourth attempt.
The Russian world number three spent 1hr 45min battling the 29th-ranked Sugiyama in a 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) scorcher before clinching a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) victory.
Safina will be bidding for her 10th career WTA title against Dementieva.
The semi-finalists did not have the sanctuary of the extreme heat policy implemented at the Australian Open where play for women’s matches is suspended once the temperature reaches 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit).
“I don’t know when it was worse, yesterday or today. It was pretty hot even (when) I was warming up before the match outside of the court,” Safina said.
“I was just standing there, and I was like, I cannot move. But it’s not an excuse, because it’s (as) hot for her and for me.”
Safina, last year’s French Open runner-up, is already enjoying her best results in an Australian campaign and has yet to drop a set this week.