It's Safina's time to put all doubts to rest

Dinara Safina has had a lifetime of being known as "Marat Safin's sister" and a couple of months of being "the best player who hasn't won a Grand Slam." Both could end on Saturday.

Of course, Safina will forever be Safin's sibling. But the French Open final is the ultimate opportunity to shine in her own right and lay to waste the critics who suggest the tag of world No.1 should come with an asterisk if its holder has never won a major.

Fighting fit and in the best form of her career, Safina admits that it could take a Slam trophy before she truly feels the shoes of world No.1 fit snugly. Experience counts for much in a final of this magnitude and Safina's seventh-seeded opponent Svetlana Kuznetsova has already won a major, having triumphed in the 2004 U.S. Open as a teenager.

However, Kuznetsova has failed to kick on in the manner that might have been expected from that point, and Safina will go into the final as an overwhelming favorite.

Kuznetsova might have been dumped out in the semis if Australia's Samantha Stosur had held her nerve and completed a spirited and gutsy resistance. Stosur, seeded 30th and in her first Grand Slam semifinal, fought back from a set down and was down 4-2 in the second to level the match, but she lost her head after squandering a break point early in the third on the way to a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 defeat.

Safina had no such difficulty, sweeping aside Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3. Apart from a tough three-setter against Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinal, the Russian has lost only 11 games in five matches.

Big brother Marat for years was famously hotheaded and unpredictable. His sister is less of an entertainer, but she looks in great shape to capitalize on her talent. She alone of the favored few who routinely occupy the top ranking places in the women's game managed to maintain her poise and keep on keeping on for the required duration of a topsy-turvy tournament.

By a timely conjunction of the planets, as Marat prepares to leave the game his sibling is ready to dominate it.

During a couple of years of fluctuation post-Justine Henin, several women reached the top spot, and Safina was one who got there without tasting victory in a Slam. But she should prove herself beyond all doubt with a victory at Roland Garros.

Yahoo! Sports prediction:

Safina beats Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-3.

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