UPDATE 2-Tennis-Safina fights back to win German Open

Sun May 11, 2008 5:01pm BST

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By Iain Rogers

BERLIN May 11 (Reuters) - Dinara Safina of Russia fought back from a set down for the third time in the tournament to win the German Open on Sunday with a 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory over seventh-seeded compatriot Elena Dementieva.

The 22-year-old Safina came from behind to beat world number one Justine Henin and eight-times grand slam winner Serena Williams en route to the final, where she captured her sixth career singles title.

The 13th seed was far too erratic in the first set but came back strongly in the second with some lusty hitting and won it with an ace down the middle.

She then broke twice in the deciding set and sealed victory when Dementieva netted a backhand return on the first match point after just over two hours of play on the clay at the Steffi Graf stadium.

Safina said the key to her victory was the number of drop-shot winners she nailed.

"I think I hit like 20 of them and I won maybe 18," she told a news conference.

"This week I played them so good, starting in the match with Justine. Then every match I was more and more confident."

SERVING WELL

Safina, who wins $196,900, had been victorious both times the pair had met on clay while Dementieva, who used to be coached by Safina's mother, had won the other two of their previous four meetings.

"After the first set I just let myself down and I didn't continue to play as well," Dementieva told a news conference.

"She was serving quite well, especially the first service," the 26-year-old added. "I feel like I had some opportunities but I just didn't take my chances, especially in the second set."

Dementieva beat world number two Ana Ivanovic in straight sets in their semi-final on Saturday and will climb to seventh in the world from ninth when the rankings are updated on Monday.

A former top-10 player, Safina is projected to rise to number 14 from 17.

She was coy about her chances at the French Open, the only grand slam on clay, that starts at the end of this month.

"I really don't know," she said. "If I can continue playing like this. The only thing I want is to stay healthy. Especially now that I have found my game on clay and I'm feeling good." (Editing by Sonia Oxley)

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