Svetlana Kuznetsova will face Elena Dementieva in an all-Russian final at the Dubai Open on Saturday after the pair won marathon semi-finals.
Second-seed Kuznetsova overcame Serbian fourth seed Jelena Jankovic 5-7 6-4 6-3 on Friday, and eighth-seeded Dementieva was also stretched before beating unseeded Italian Francesca Schiavone 5-7 7-5 6-2. Both matches took almost three hours.
Kuznetsova twice took the lead in the opening set before immediately dropping her own serve. After missing out on a set point at 5-4, she was left to rue her missed opportunity when Jankovic came back strongly to wrap up the first set.
Instead of hanging her head, the Russian responded by jumping to a 3-0 lead in the second. But her advantage was short-lived as Jankovic broke twice to streak 4-3 ahead.
This time it was Jankovic who let her chance slip away as Kuznetsova claimed the next three games.
After an early exchange of breaks in the deciding set, Jankovic visibly waned. Kuznetsova survived three break points at 2-2 and then broke to lead 4-2.
She squandered six match points on the Jankovic serve before serving out to love for victory.
"The match was going longer and longer and I was feeling better and better. I cannot explain it," Kuznetsova (pictured above, right) told reporters.
"I was far from my best game and it was very important to stay focused because usually when I play her I have so many chances and when I don't use them I get so frustrated.
"Today it was very important for me to get through it. I thought I did it pretty well, and in the third set I just had to stay calm and play my game."
Dementieva and Schiavone engaged in a succession of very lengthy but highly entertaining rallies, some stretching to over 30 exchanges.
Dementieva led 5-3, but she allowed the Italian, who knocked out world number one Justine Henin on Thursday, to snatch the next four games and the set.
After a series of service breaks in the second set Schiavone dropped her serve at 4-4, and although Dementieva failed to serve out the set at 5-4 she broke again to lead 6-5 and then levelled the match.
Schiavone, who received treatment for a tight quad muscle, was able to earn just seven points as Dementieva swept to a 4-0 lead in the deciding set.
"The toughest part was losing the first set," said Dementieva (pictured above, left). "I was 5-3, serving for the set and had so many opportunities and didn't use them. I had to be able to stay calm and positive after losing that set and that was not easy.
"I'm glad I was able to fight and win the second set. That gave me so much confidence and I was finishing strongly in the third." (Reuters)
Kuznetsova to face Dementieva in Dubai final