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Safina beats Pennetta at Open

NEW YORK - Sixth-seeded Dinara Safina overpowered No. 16 Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-3 in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Wednesday, earning the right to play one of the Williams sisters next.

Safina, the sister of 2000 U.S. Open men's champion Marat Safin, reached her first semifinal at Flushing Meadows. The Russian has won 37 of her past 41 matches and made it to the finals at six of her previous seven events.

'I'm getting closer to reaching the same thing as my brother,' Safina said.

The French Open runner-up and Beijing Olympics silver medalist compiled a 25-13 edge in winners against Pennetta and only was broken once.

'She was playing unbelievable, you know,' said Pennetta, from Italy. 'She didn't give me a lot of chance.'

Now comes a much harder assignment for Safina: trying to beat Venus or Serena Williams.

'It's going to be a big match. You know, they're both playing good,' Safina said. 'I just want to focus again on myself and to give my 100 percent and see who's going to be stronger.'

The siblings, both two-time Open champions, were to face each other in the last women's quarterfinal Wednesday night, their 17th matchup as professionals.

Safina is 1-3 against Serena and never has faced Venus.

The Russian was asked which sister she would rather meet?

'I don't care,' Safina said.

Wednesday's schedule also included the first two men's quarterfinals, with No. 6 Andy Murray and No. 17 Juan Martin del Potro meeting in the afternoon, and No. 1 Rafael Nadal taking on unseeded American Mardy Fish at night, after Williams vs. Williams.

The sisters headed into that match 8-8 in all-Williams encounters, 5-5 at Grand Slam tournaments. Seven of those came in Grand Slam finals, including at Wimbledon in July, when Venus beat Serena in straight sets for her fifth championship at the All England Club.

Back when they were ranked Nos. 1 and 2, the siblings only could meet in tournament finals. But because of injuries, inactivity and inconsistency, they dropped in the rankings, and now it's the luck of the draw that determines at which stage they potentially meet.

At the U.S. Open, they wound up in the same section of the bracket, so what many might consider the two top players at the moment were forced to meet in the round of eight.

Serena has won eight major titles, and Venus has won seven - and none of the other quarterfinalists owns a single such prize. Before this tournament, Venus had reached the quarterfinals at 28 majors, and Serena at 23, while the six other women to reach that stage this time had made a combined total of 22 previous Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances.

For Pennetta, this was her first career major quarterfinal - and it showed, right from the start against Safina.

Pennetta came to the U.S. Open with a 21-22 career record in Grand Slam tournaments and a 1-4 mark at Flushing Meadows. She dropped her first service game Wednesday, misjudging an overhead to set up a break point, then flubbing a forehand to end a 15-stroke exchange.