Fez, Morocco , 23 April 2011 | AP

Former No.1 Dinara Safina overcame fellow Russian Anastasia Pivovarova 6-4 2-6 6-4 in a match featuring 18 breaks of serve to reach the semifinals of the WTA Tour’s Morocco event on Friday.

Safina reached her first semifinal since the Cincinnati Open in August 2009 – the year Safina lost in two Grand Slam finals at the Australian and French Open, and also held the top ranking.

She dropped her own serve nine times against Pivovarova in a topsy-turvy match stretching over nearly 3 1/2 hours because of rain stoppages.

Safina managed to wrap up the win quickly after the players came back out after rain with the scores tied at 4-4 and 0-15 on Safina’s serve in the decider.

The 24-year-old Safina missed three months last year because of a back injury, and had to retire during the first set of her quarterfinal at the Andalucia Tennis Experience earlier this month with lower back pains.

Although Friday’s win will doubtless boost her confidence, Safina looked far from at ease. She lost all three of her service games in the second set, allowing Pivovarova to level the match after she held her own wobbly serve.

Safina won only 45 per cent of points on her first serve in the match, while Pivovarova fared little better with 53, and even worse on her second serve with 20 per cent to Safina’s 35.

Safina next plays Italy’s Alberta Brianti, who reached her first semifinal of the season after beating Melanie Oudin of the United States 7-5 5-7 6-0.

Earlier, seventh-seeded Simona Halep of Romania beat Greta Arn of Hungary 6-2 6-1 to reach the last four.

Halep, who was runner-up last year after coming through the qualifiers, reached her first semifinal of 2011 in comfortable style. She broke the fourth-seeded Arn’s serve six times in the match, winning in just over an hour.

She next faces Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who took just 45 minutes to beat local favourite Nadia Lalami 6-0 6-1.