Thursday, November 27, 2008


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dinara Safina has gained the number two spot after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinal match in Kremlin Cup. She has now surpassed Serena Williams in the WTA rankings. Dinara will be officially number two on Monday, October 13, 2008.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Safina reaches Pan Pacific quarters

Sept 17, 2008

TOKYO: Russian fourth seed Dinara Safina became the first player to reach the quarter-finals when she whipped Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in the Pan Pacific Open on Wednesday.

The Beijing Olympic silver medallist, making her Tokyo debut after receiving a first-round bye, struggled with her serve, hitting eight double faults before scoring a 6-3, 6-4 second round victory in 95 minutes.

Safina hit a double fault on break point to lose the fifth game of the first set, but she was never in serious danger throughout the match.

Cibulkova, who eliminated 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo on Tuesday, broke back once in the sixth game of the second set, but that was all she could do as Safina sealed her quarter-final place with her ninth ace.

"It was a pretty good match. She (Cibulkova) is not an easy opponent, and I think I played really solid today. I've had almost a week of practice on this surface. Its fast and it suits me. I struggled a little bit in the second set, but I'm really happy that I put out in two sets," said Safina, 22.

When she was asked about her eight double faults, she replied: "I just tried to focus on the next point. There is not much time to think about it."

Source: AFP

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ESPN video

Friday, September 5, 2008

By Lisa Zimmerman

At almost six-feet tall, lean and muscular, and now in the best shape of her career, 22-year-old Dinara Safina is an imposing presence on the tennis court. Over the past year, she has become more and more of a force to be reckoned with in any tournament and came into this year’s US Open as the No. 6 seed, after reaching her all-time high world-ranking of No. 7 earlier this year.

Although she turned pro in 2000, she has been perceived for years simply as the little sister of 2000 US Open men’s champion Marat Safin. Now, she is one of five Russian women in the top 10 at this year’s US Open, and the improvement in Safina’s overall game has been obvious. She is playing faster and more aggressively; and through the quarterfinals has dropped just one set (to Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in the third round).

While she won the 2007 women’s doubles title at the US Open, and was the runner-up in 2006, Grand Slam singles titles have thus far eluded her.

However, in 2008 Safina did finally reach her first Grand Slam final – the French Open, ultimately losing to Ana Ivanovic of Serbia. Outside of Slam competition, she has racked up eight titles in 2008 and was the winner of the Olympus US Open series, leading up to the US Open.

An emotional person and player, Safina has struggled to get her emotions under control throughout the course of her career. Feeling at odds with her previous coach and how they worked together, she is now coached by Zeljko Krajan. Krajan, a former Croatian player, was recommended by fellow tennis player Ivan Lujubicic. The two started working together shortly after the 2007 US Open and Safina is pleased with the new partnership, which has clearly impacted her success level.

“Now I have tennis coach and fitness coach,” she said. "They are working together to get me better, so now I guess I have team that works for me.”

She also talked about the overall work she has done on her mental game.

“Most of the time the mind controls, but sometimes even the mind gets very tired of pushing yourself. So then come the moments that you say 'you don't care anymore.' But now I feel…I'm feeling better.”

Safina also battled chronic fatigue last year, but has bounced back physically and is learning to take better care of herself.

“Now I'm taking much more care about the food,” she said. “This is the most important thing for me now. I know what I can eat and what I cannot eat and when and what, so I'm taking really good care of it.”

With her life in balance, Safina is now totally focused on what she needs to do each day for each new match. After winning 16 straight matches leading up to the Beijing Olympics, Safina lost to countrywoman Elena Dementieva in the gold medal round, bringing home the silver.

While she is focused on the remainder of the US Open tournament, there is a lot more on her upcoming schedule. She plans to skip the Fed Cup in order to prepare for the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. In January 2009, she and Marat will team up for the first time to play mixed doubles at the Hopman Cup in Australia.

But for now, Safina is looking toward just one match: the women’s singles semi-final in which she will face two-time US Open champion Serena Williams who will more than likely provide the biggest challenge she has faced to date. With her power and extraordinary ability to move around the court, Williams is a formidable opponent and enormous obstacle to Safina’s goal of a US Open championship.

When asked about the possibility of this, Safina said simply, “It will be the dream come true.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Serena Williams, Dinara Safina Qualify for Season-Ending Championships

Serena Williams and Dinara Safina have officially qualified for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha.

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced the news on Thursday, just one day before the pair is scheduled to meet in the semifinals of the US Open.

The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams from the 2008 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour season will compete for the Championships title and a share of the record prize money of $4.45 million.

Sony Ericsson Championships debutante Safina and 2001 champion Williams join previously qualified Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic in the singles line-up. Williams earned 3,130 points and Safina earned 3,123 points in the Race to the Sony Ericsson Championships standings.

“I am delighted to have qualified again for the Sony Ericsson Championships,” said Serena Williams in a statement released by the Tour. “It’s always an honor to play at the year-end Championships, and I’m looking forward to playing in Doha where I can hopefully show my best tennis.”

This season, the 26-year-old American claimed three singles titles at the Canara Bank Bangalore Open in Bangalore, the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. She was runner-up at Wimbledon, where she fell to sister Venus in her 11th career Grand Slam singles final.

“I am really happy about qualifying for the Sony Ericsson Championships,” Safina said. “I think this is the goal for every player to reach the Championships at the end of the year and finally my dream has come true.”

Safina has played her best season to date, winning Tour singles titles at the Qatar Telecom German Open in Berlin, where she defeated World No. 1 Justine Henin, the East West Bank Classic presented by Herbalife in Los Angeles and at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal for her sixth, seventh and eighth career titles.

She reached her first Grand Slam singles final at Roland Garros, finished runner-up at the Ordina Open at ‘s-Hertogenbosch and was the singles silver medalist at the Beijing Olympics.
“I’m delighted that Serena and Dinara have both qualified for this year’s Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha,” said Larry Scott, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

“Dinara has had a fantastic run this year and absolutely deserves a spot in her first Sony Ericsson Championships. Serena is without doubt a true global icon and displaying wonderful tennis this season. Having both players showcase their talent in Doha will be great for tennis fans around the world.”

“We’re very pleased to see that Dinara and Serena have both qualified for the 2008 Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha,” said Aldo Liguori, Corporate Vice President and Head of Global Communications & PR at Sony Ericsson.

“They are both top seeds in the game and their considerable talent makes them fantastic ambassadors for women’s tennis. We’re sure they will make the season finale to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour one of the most exciting yet.”

Sony Ericsson Championships is scheduled to take place at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar, November 4-9, 2008.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

NEW YORK, NY, USA - It's official: by virtue of Jelena Jankovic reaching the semifinals, there will be a new world No.1 after the US Open. At the beginning of the fortnight there were six players in the hunt for the post-US Open No.1 ranking; during the first week Svetlana Kuznetsova was ruled out, and Jankovic's quarterfinal win on Tuesday night means Ana Ivanovic is also ruled out.

Ivanovic, who is spending her 11th and 12th weeks at No.1 during the US Open fortnight, will not add any more weeks to her tally just yet. Ivanovic's ranking points total can be passed by four players here - Jankovic and Serena Williams needed to reach the semis to achieve the feat, while Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina needed to reach the final. If Dementieva and Safina are the finalists and Jankovic and Williams fall in the semifinals, Ivanovic could even be pushed down to No.5 next week. But for the moment, Jankovic reaching the semifinals means at least one of those four criteria is satisfied, and Ivanovic will dip to at least No.2 next Monday.

Williams, Dementieva and Safina all need to capture the title to become No.1. Williams and Dementieva would become No.1 outright with a title run, regardless of how the others do; Safina would take No.1 if she wins the title AND Jankovic isn't her opponent in the final (she needs her to fall to Dementieva in the semis).

Jankovic doesn't necessarily need to win the title to be the post-US Open No.1. If she wins the title, she will be No.1. If she is runner-up to either Safina, Flavia Pennetta or Venus Williams, she will be No.1. Even if she falls to Dementieva in the semifinals, she could become No.1 if Pennetta or Venus Williams beats her Russian conqueror in the final.

While Ivanovic, Jankovic and Williams have all spent time at No.1 before, it would be a first for both Dementieva and Safina, whose career-highs coming into this fortnight are No.4 and No.6, respectively. They would become just the second Russian ever to rise to No.1 in the world, following Maria Sharapova.

The sixth player who had a chance at becoming the new world No.1 after this tournament, Kuznetsova, was eliminated from the scenario after the first round, as she has 700 ranking points to defend from her run to the final last year and she needed some of the other players to lose early, given she had the most ground to make up. Her third round loss was not what put her out of contention.

Friday, August 29, 2008

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Former champion Marat Safin traded booming groundstrokes with Tommy Robredo for three sets before fading to a 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-0 defeat by the 15th-seeded Spaniard on Friday in the second round of the U.S. Open.

"Sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you have a bad day," the 2000 champion said. "Today I was struggling."

Twice the Louis Armstrong Stadium match was interrupted in the second set by rain and Safin squandered opportunities to seize the advantage.

Leading 3-2 in the second-set tiebreaker he lost five of the last six points as 15th-seed Robredo won it 7-4 to level the match.

"If I would have won the second set, I should have won the match probably," said the former world number one who also triumphed at the 2005 Australian Open before tumbling down the rankings to his current number 44.

Safin, 28, battled the Spaniard on serve in the third set before errors began to seep into his game and Robredo broke him in the 10th game for a two sets to one lead.

That seemed to take the life out of Safin, who went down meekly in a 24-minute fourth set.

"The rain was going on and off and I couldn't get into the game. I missed a few points in the tiebreak," he said.

"The third set was very close and the fourth set I lost it completely. It just slipped away and that's it," said the fiery Russian, who in moments of frustration slammed his racket to the ground and smashed balls against the back curtain.

"Too much frustration in the second and third set."

Safin failed to successfully follow up his spirited run at Wimbledon, where he reached the semi-finals before falling to Roger Federer.

"One good result throughout the year, I don't think you're hoping for something bigger," Safin said about not carrying any expectations into Flushing Meadows.

Instead, Safin found himself pushed around the court by the pin-point topspin forehands and cut backhands from Robredo, who advanced to a third-round match against 19th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

The demoralised Russian said he would not stick around in New York to cheer for his sister Dinara Safina, who could claim the world number one ranking with an Open triumph.

"No I'm going home. I've had enough already," said Safin. "I've been here for too long. I need to go home."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dinara Safina took the court of Arthur Ashe Stadium with an unwavering focus which, with the exception of brief moments in the middle of both sets, she maintained in her second round match vs. Roberta Vinci of Italy. It paid off with a 6-4, 6-3 win to advance the Russian to the third round.

No. 6 seed Safina, the runner-up at this year’s French Open, showed off powerful baseline shots and an equally powerful serve, racking up six aces.

Vinci brought a slightly better net game, edging Safina in that category. However, Safina stayed on her game, clenching her first with every point won. While Vinci actually committed fewer forced errors (14 to her opponent’s 18), her game was far more uneven. Down 0-3, with vocal support from her packed friends and family box, Vinci fought her way to get even and put the match at 4-4.

Then, up 5-4 and down 15-0 in the game, Safina smashed an overhead shot sending it ricocheting off the seats behind the court, as if telling the Italian that she would not be beaten, and quickly turning the score around to take the game and the set.

In the second set, Safina quickly went up 4-1 and shortly thereafter won two consecutive challenges, challenging calls on the right baseline. As the second call was overturned she turned to the chair umpire and shrugged. Within moments, Vinci challenged a call on the same baseline, which was also overturned on replay. Following that game, the judge changed his position.

With Safina serving for the match, Vinci hung in, taking the score to 15-40 before relinquishing the game and the match.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Daniela Hantuchova, on the comeback trail after being sidelined with a foot injury earlier this year, was crushed 6-4 6-2 by German qualifier Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the U.S. Open first round on Tuesday.

The 11th-seeded Slovakian, who reached the last four at the Australian Open in January, struggled to find her range against the big-serving German and was swept aside in 71 minutes.

Groenefeld, world-ranked 141st after reaching a career-high 14th in 2006, kept her opponent on the back foot by dominating from the baseline and firing down seven aces.

"I really didn't get the chance to get into the match," world number 12 Hantuchova told reporters. "She was serving incredibly well and her first serves were around 125 (mph) which gave me no chance. I felt I was always under pressure."

The Slovakian said she had not fully recovered from the foot injury which kept her out of action for two months in the build-up to this year's Wimbledon.

"I don't feel 100 percent fit," she added. "The foot feels much better but I lost the feeling of playing and that takes time to get back."

Groenefeld, slowly working her way back up the world rankings after a protracted contractual battle with her former coach, was delighted to upset Hantuchova.


"It's a kind of a second chance for me in my career and I have a lot more influence now on what I am doing," said the 23-year-old, who stopped playing competitively for nine months when at her lowest ebb.

"I have just beaten Daniela so that's a great start. Ranking-wise, that's the best match I have played this year. Every win gives you more confidence and I believe I am on my way back.

"My serve is a great weapon of mine and I think I have improved it this year," she said after winning 96 percent of her first serve points.

"I was very happy with my first serves because I knew I had to play aggressively against her."

Groenefeld, who had to compete on the lower Challenger circuit after her ranking plummeted, said she had no desire to dwell on the past.

"I didn't play for eight to nine months because of everything that was going on behind the tennis lines," she added. "I had time off to re-group mentally. The final cut came just a couple of months ago.

"Everything is now over. I don't really want to think about the past again. I am much more relaxed and happy outside of the court."

Groenefeld will meet a wildcard opponent, either Australian Jessica Moore or American Melanie Oudin, in the second round.

NEW YORK — It's do as I say, not as I do when it comes to Marat Safin and his up-and-coming sister Dinara Safina.

Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open men's singles champion, is well known for his hard-hitting and his explosive temper. His boiling point was reached again Tuesday during his 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 first-round win over Vince Spadea.

Serving to stay in the fourth set, Safin was called for a foot fault on the first point of the 4-5 game, and then was pushed to the brink again at deuce. While in his serving motion, Safin was again called for a foot fault - this time because his back foot crossed the centre line.

The little-known rule gave Spadea the game advantage and put him in position to clinch the fourth set on the next point.

"It's stupid rules that somebody made in, I don't know, 1850, and now they give me problems with these things," the still-perturbed Safin said. "It shouldn't be that way."

Safin grumbled at the linesman on the far end of the court and voiced his displeasure to chair umpire Carlos Bernardes. Speaking to him in Spanish, and in the universal language of frustration, Safin punctuated his remarks with expletives in English that were clearly heard.

He even sat on his chair mid-game in exasperation. After the set was lost, he went off court with tournament referee Brian Earley and took up the argument with him, to no avail.

Safin said, except for earlier this season in Cincinnati, he never had anyone call a foot fault against him on a second serve. He pleaded to be given a warning the first time he committed the fault before it would cost him a serve.

"I've already been on tour 10 years, and I want to enjoy my tennis," he said. "I don't want to fight anybody. I don't want to face any problems on the court. It's not like I'm starving to death and I need to do something original to earn money. I want to enjoy. It's so simple.

"I just want to have a nice match, win or lose, and whatever happens go home. That's it. I don't want to face the foot faults and all these things."

Earlier Tuesday, Safina - the No. 6 seed - moved into the second round by beating New Jersey's Kristie Ahn 6-3, 6-4.

She is learning a lot from her big brother, especially how to act on court. Well, sort of. In the past, meltdowns have caused Safin to lose focus and, in turn, matches.

"I would behave like a baby and crying and all this. He hated it," the 22-year-old Safina said. "He was always, 'Come on! You have to grow up in your mind. You cannot behave like this. ... That's why he's like learn from my experience. Don't do this."

Safina, a finalist this year at the French Open and the Beijing Olympics, is one of six women who could be ranked No. 1 on the women's tour by the end of this tournament.

"I think if she will do everything opposite of what I've been doing throughout the years, she will be Number One in the world for a long time," Safin said. "That's as simple as it is.

"Two tough finals ... and I think the third one is here. She should take her chance. ... I think she is ready to win the first Grand Slam. I'm really proud of the way she's handling the pressure and the way she's handling herself."

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dinara Safina doused the youthful exuberance of grand slam debutante Kristie Ahn with a 6-3 6-4 win to reach the second round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday.

The Russian sixth seed made no allowances for Ahn, who at 16 is the youngest woman in the draw, and showed off her repertoire of groundstrokes and thundering serves to get her campaign off to a flying start.

With a ranking of 758 in the world, American qualifier Ahn would not have been expected to pose much of a threat to the in-form Safina but that did not stop the Russian from shouting and screaming her way to victory.

The Olympic silver medalist will next face Italian qualifier Roberta Vinci.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dinara Safina.

Q. Well, you have certainly come into the US Open as arguably one of the hottest players on the WTA Tour. If you can, talk about your level of confidence at this time.

DINARA SAFINA: Well, in the last 16 matches I lose only one match.

Q. That's good.

DINARA SAFINA: Actually, I feel very good coming here. See if I can continue to play good.

Q. What about this, the environment of the US Open? I mean, describe the environment here. Every Grand Slam has a different type of feel to it. Describe what it's like to play here at Flushing Meadows and your thoughts on that, please.

DINARA SAFINA: I don't know. Actually still I'm feeling okay. Sometimes getting closer I feel a little bit like this tension, you know, like Grand Slam.

But at the moment, you have so many tournaments in a row, so I just kind of lost those feelings. So at the moment I feel pretty calm. But in general, I mean, for me, this tournament is special because of my brother. That's why for me like coming here it's really always nice to come back here.

Q. Has he given you advice in terms of playing this particular tournament?

DINARA SAFINA: Not really. I don't know. For the last few months he's actually had success and doesn't follow me places.

Q. Give us your thoughts on the draw when you saw it come out on Thursday, potentially meeting Hantuchova in the fourth round.

DINARA SAFINA: I don't know that far. Thanks for telling me.

Q. How did you feel when you saw the draw come out?

DINARA SAFINA: Actually I look first round. I never look that far, because you just need to meet one player at a time. I don't know that I'm playing American girl, qualifier. So I just want to focus on my first‑round match and take it one match at a time.

Q. Can you give us your thoughts on winning the Olympic/US Open Series?

DINARA SAFINA: It's just coming too fast. I'm not used to it. If I was used to it I would say, Okay, I can think about it.

But at the moment, I just, I mean just coming too fast, everything, so I still cannot really take a breather and to realize what's going on. So I'm coming in and dreaming situation now.

Q. You've beaten 10 top 10s this year. Just in your opinion, are you playing the best tennis of your career, and is there any opponent out there that you have any concerns about?

DINARA SAFINA: Well, I just go out there and, I don't know, I play my game, and it's working right now. I mean, of course I've been working and still I'm working to improve my shots to get better and better.

But somehow I started to go out there and started to believe I'm a player and I can compete with them. Maybe before it was missing this. And then I could not give them answers, but now I go out there and for their game I can always give them my answer, like my game.

I think that's what, it's the turning point. That's why I start to beat them.

Q. It really all started in Berlin. Do you think of yourself differently now than you did, say, in March or April?

DINARA SAFINA: Well, now, of course, like you believe much more ‑‑ I believe much more in myself and what I'm able to do. I don't know.

My coach thinks there's still like so many things we can work on and to get me even better to improve, so I'm just following him.

Q. For you, was there a breakthrough moment this year? I mean, was there a time when you felt like you really got over the hump and was able to compete at the highest level?

DINARA SAFINA: I think it was Berlin. I don't know, I just went there and I said, I just want to go out there and play my game. I said, I don't care if I win the match or lose, but I'll just do what my coach tells me and just go for the shots. Certainly it worked out, and why I was not doing this before? But I don't know. Maybe it had to come to this moment.

And now, of course, I think that was a really breakthrough because I beat really good players there.

Q. Usually before the US Open you're here in the US Open Series, but you just came from Beijing. Is that more difficult than previous years?

DINARA SAFINA: Well, maybe just for the jet lag that I was waking up four days in a row at 4:00 in the morning. That's all.

But on the other hand, I'm thinking this week actually it's good, because I came from Beijing and I have this week to practice, you know, to work on the things.

Just taking it a little bit easier, because after LA I came straight to Montreal. I had only one day off to practice. From Montreal I had to go to Beijing, and then also like in three days I had to find my best game.

At least now here I could take a little breather and now I can practice easier without rushing somewhere.

Q. You had a good rest period?


Q. Can you just talk about your Olympic experience? First Olympic medal, but how did you enjoy the whole time there, the Olympics, representing Russia?

DINARA SAFINA: At the beginning was tough, because it was ‑‑ I mean, still it's a singles tournament. It's not like Fed Cup. It was like so many people always around us.

I mean, Russia is like this person, this person, and for me, I could not find really myself. It was really too much.

But then I slowly, as I said, like I don't need any attention like from the team. I have my team. Like I have my tennis coach, and I don't need anybody else. And then slowly I found myself. But really to go to other sports, to do this, to go out, I really had no time.

I arrived on Thursday, I had Friday, Saturday, Sunday to practice. Then once the tournament started, there really was no chance to go and ‑‑ especially longer it was going, when you're starting matches at 4:00 in the afternoon, and then it's ‑‑ really no time.

Unfortunately I couldn't watch any other sports. Hopefully maybe in four years I can watch some other sports.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When Marat Safin destroyed Pete Sampras to win the U.S. Open title in 2000, it seemed the world order was about to change.

Sampras, who had just won his 13th Grand Slam title, was made to look old by the big, strong Russian, in one of the most impressive performances in recent Flushing Meadows history.

Since then, despite a stunning 2005 victory at the Australian Open, Safin has become one of the biggest enigmas in world sport, brilliant on his day but susceptible to mental let-downs and struck by injuries each time it seemed he was about to establish himself again.

Eight years on and a relative veteran at 28, Safin reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon this year and believes he is finally clear of the knee injury that hampered him after that 2005 win in Melbourne.

"The last time I played the U.S. Open normal was back in 2001, when I got to the semi-finals, probably, it was so long ago," former world number one Safin said.

"Every time I started to play well I was getting injured, even when I was number one, I got injured with the rib, I couldn't play for two months and my ranking dropped and I lost confidence.

"But I am getting back again, the results will come eventually. The ranking doesn't really matter, if you get the results it will come back."

Now ranked 44, Safin will be unseeded in New York next week but none of the top players will want to face him early on, especially Novak Djokovic, who was beaten by the Russian in round two at Wimbledon.

Having been ranked as low as 90th in March, Safin is on the up again.

Much of the credit, Safin said, should go to his coach, Hernan Gumy.

"It's been just over one year for us now, and I am pretty satisfied," Safin said.

"I am a little old to do certain things. Over the years it gets tougher and tougher to play well, especially when you compare yourself with the years before.

"He understands, he has a lot of patience and is the ideal person to travel with, which is very important. I am not under any pressure."

Safin said he had been wary about moving to his backhand side until Gumy took over.

"The knee was difficult and I was risking a little too much," he said. "That's why my ranking dropped because without confidence you cannot make any more winners from the back of the court.

"All of a sudden the pain was gone and I could start at least to work on the movement, I started to cover the court better, doing more work in the gym."

Nothing is smooth sailing where Safin is concerned, though.

After early defeats in the Masters Series events in Toronto and Cincinnati last month, Safin reached the quarter-finals in Los Angeles but then pulled out of Washington with a stiff neck last week.

"It should be okay. I just need three or four days' rest," he said.


Deep Tennis: Golden Age

As the players make the long, rushed journey from the Olympics to the U.S. Open this week, it seems an opportune moment to reflect on the first player to win those two events in the same year. This was Steffi Graf, of course, the owner of the most remorselessly successful career the modern game has seen. Nearly 10 years after her sudden retirement, however, that career has begun to seem just the slightest bit neglected—not forgotten, exactly, but less remarked upon than an historian of the game might expect.

Twenty years ago, Graf pulled off, if not the greatest, then certainly the most unique achievement in tennis history. In 1988 she won all four Grand Slams and topped them with a gold medal at the Seoul Olympics. At the time, her Golden Slam was a unique example of dominance on every important stage in the game. That’s still true—let’s face it, no one is going to do that again in our lifetime. But what feels equally unique in 2008, a year when Yannick Noah’s 1983 French Open win was widely memorialized, is the fact that the anniversary of Graf’s far greater accomplishment hasn’t, as far as I’ve seen, merited any attention at all.

In a sense, that’s only fair. Tennis fans and media hold Graf at a distance because she always held them the same way. Chris Evert was a beloved girl next door to everyone in America by the time she was 16. Martina Navratilova has wished and worked for acceptance from the people of her adopted country for most of her life. Monica Seles became an instant figure of sympathy when she was, you know, stabbed. Today these women are well-loved WTA icons. Graf? She was the Blonde Bomber, Fräulein Forehand. She stomped all over girls-next-door for a living, never wished for the acceptance of anyone outside of her family, and wouldn’t have had the faintest idea of what to do with your sympathy if you offered it.

I loved to watch Graf play, particularly in her early years, when she marched—that’s what it looked like she was doing between points, marching—straight to the top of the game when she was 18. We’re the same age, and along with her now-husband Andre Agassi, Graf was the first champion whom I could identify with as a generational peer, as one of my own. In the mid-80s, I relished seeing Graf stand up to Navratilova’s overweening sense of entitlement (and eventually surpass her career singles achievements) the same way I enjoyed seeing the “punk” Agassi toy with the “legend” Connors at the U.S. Open.

I heard Graf’s name before I ever saw her play. At the 1985 French Open, Chris Evert was interviewed after winning her semifinal. She had just defeated a much-hyped 15-year-old named Gabriela Sabatini, but it was a girl named Steffi Graf, whom she had played earlier in the tournament, that she seemed most pleased about beating. Evert knew who the real threat was, but I doubt she realized the extent of that threat. The next spring, in the final at Hilton Head, Graf beat Evert for the first time. She would go on to win their last seven meetings, six of them in straight sets. The year after that, in Miami, Graf didn’t just beat Evert, she blitzed her 6-1, 6-2 and showed the legend once and for all that there was no path left back to the top. The future was here. It hit hard. It ran fast. It showed no mercy.

I was shocked by how badly, how viciously Graf beat Evert that day. Frankly, it was a thrill. In the past, the German, even when she was winning big events, hadn’t had a fully developed game. For every roundhouse forehand she rifled into the corner, there was a tentative slice backhand that she dumped in the net. Now, at 18, Graf’s choppy backhand didn’t seem to hurt her anymore. She may not have been flawless, or even technically all that sound, but it was clear that that wasn’t going to matter. She was going to be too fast and too powerful for everyone else. Beginning with that rout of Evert, Graf played the next two years like a whirlwind, running rings around her opponents and sweeping them off the court before they knew what had happened.

These were golden years for Graf. She had vanquished Navratilova for the moment, and her personal troubles, as well as the rise of Seles, remained on the horizon. In 1988 Graf won the Grand Slam, then added three more majors in ’89. How did she become so dominant in so short a time? At first glance, you would have thought she was too raw to win so consistently. Her service toss was too high, she took her forehand too late, she hacked her backhand and couldn’t come over it when she got nervous. Everything looked rushed, as if she had too much energy for the court and was on the verge of overrunning each ball.

But Graf did dominate, and it was her athletic energy that overcame any flaws. She did it with a flying, flopping mane of blonde hair and the best legs—in form and function—the game has seen. She did it by moving as if her feet were bouncing on hot coals. She did it by throwing her body into the ball as if she needed to end each point now. She did it by overwhelming her opponents with her relentless tempo—the term “playing like she’s double-parked” was invented for Graf, and she was the last top player to keep a ball in her off-hand during points.

Most of all, she did it with her forehand. To call this shot—with its late preparation, high take-back, and explosive contact—a “stroke” is too tame. To say that, like Ivan Lendl before her, she changed the sport with it, is too boring. The only way I can describe Graf’s forehand is to say that she wielded it like a weapon. Not in the metaphorical sense, the way we say a certain player has “a lot of weapons,” but in a very real sense. She looked like she was trying to hurt the ball with it.

Why was Graf so exciting to watch in the late ’80s? She was attractive, even sexy at times, and I didn’t mind the famous nose. But it was the way she used her body that mattered. More than any other player, Graf played with total abandon during points, then closed herself off and went into a hard shell of concentration between them. Graf didn’t come from wealth—her father Peter, a tennis freak who began training her in the family rec room when she was 3—was a salesman. Still, her on-court presence— total excellence mixed with a reticence that bordered on the haughty—made me think of her as tennis’ version of an aristocrat. A friend of mine’s mom called her “Starchy Steffi,” but I thought this was a sign of class. She had too much of it to worry about what anyone thought of her.

That detached style, which I eventually realized was a product of a stunted early social life as much as it was a sign of class, would come back to haunt Graf in the second half of her career. After Seles was stabbed by a crazed Graf fan, Steffi was widely scolded for not reaching out to her rival. It seemed cold indeed, though I’m guessing Graf didn’t know what to say, that she thought the situation was too emotionally fraught for any token gesture to make a difference. (I don’t remember what Graf’s public explanation was, if she had any.) Still, I lost a little of my fan’s love for her as she went on to rack up many more major titles—more, most likely, than she would have if Seles hadn’t been stabbed. By the mid-90s, her dominance almost seemed too easy. Two players, Jana Novotna at Wimbledon and Martina Hingis at the French Open, handed Graf majors on silver platters. More important, Graf didn’t seem to take any joy from the game or the tour aside from winning. Always a step removed from her peers, she ruled the WTA but wasn’t of it.

Was Steffi a cold fish? Does she deserve the lack of retrospective attention her accomplishments have been given, because she didn’t give the sport enough of herself in the first place? Was her success the result of a frightening, single-minded drive to grind her opponents into the dust, to hurt the ball? I was ambivalent for a while. Graf had tried to console Novotna at Wimbledon, but she had seemed to revel in Hingis’ tear-stained meltdown at Roland Garros, showing more joy in that victory than I’d ever seen from her before.

It was Graf’s induction into the Hall of Fame in Newport that helped make up my mind. Agassi, another another tennis prodigy with a love-hate relationship with the sport, inducted his wife with a classic, over-the-top tribute that was widely replayed. But it was Graf’s opening lines from a few moments later that I remember. She said that her entire tennis career had been worthwhile only because it had led her to Agassi. Strong words, but it wasn’t the sentiment as much as the way she expressed it and how much she was moved that made me think that I’d missed the real reason for Graf’s greatness.

Tennis is a sport of heart and emotion, we always say, a test of our emotional reserves. So it makes sense that, somewhere down there, the very best tennis player would have the deepest well of emotion from which to draw. Graf had it all along. How else could she have gotten those feet to bounce like that for all those years? How else could she have turned such a strange-looking forehand into the most lethal shot in history? What we think of as raw athletic ability doesn’t just come from the body; it comes from something inside as well. Twenty years ago, Graf dug down deep enough to produce the best season in tennis history—in an interview that TENNIS Magazine just did with her, she said that when she won the final point of the U.S. Open in 1988 to complete the Slam, she was so drained that she doubted she could have played another point. Would you have ever guessed that from Steffi Graf?

In this season of non-dominance on the women’s side, it’s worth remembering exactly what it takes to be a champion, to be the undisputed best, to win all the time. That’s worth a tribute, isn’t it?

Source : by Steve Tignor

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Daniela Hantuchova just won her 2nd round match against Govortsova . Hantuchova, the No.2 seed this week, survived a two-hour, 29-minute scare against Olga Govortsova, advancing with a 36 62 76(4) victory. Govortsova had beaten Hantuchova in her opening match at Los Angeles three weeks ago in straight sets and seemed headed for a repeat upset as she won the first set, 6-3; but the Slovak, who dipped out of the Top 10 just recently, battled back to win in a third set tie-break. Govortsova had all sorts of chances in the third set - she led 5-3 and held three match points leading 6-5, then led 4-2 in the tie-break before Hantuchova reeled off the last five points of the match.
In doubles, Daniela is once again teaming with Davenport and won their first match against Craybas and Govortsova 6-3 6-4.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Safina stops China's Li

BEIJING: Chinese star Li Na's giant-killing run was brought shuddering to a halt by in-form Russian Dinara Safina in the Olympic Games semi-finals on Saturday.

Safina braved a partisan crowd to oust Li 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 and set up an all-Russian final with 2000 silver-medallist Elena Dementieva who beat compatriot Vera Zvonareva, a late call-up for the injured Maria Sharapova, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).

The 43rd-ranked Li rode a wave of home support to reach the last four, and thousands of fans packed Centre Court on Saturday.

With occasional shouts of "Russia!" drowned out by ear-splitting boos, French Open runner-up Safina got the early break but short-circuited with three double faults to level the first set at 3-3.

They exchanged breaks twice more before the sixth seed took control of the tie-break, racing to a 5-1 lead and snatching the first set point with a monster second serve.

More Safina double-faults handed Li the advantage in the second set, but the Russian kept up the pressure and finally broke back at 4-5 despite being rapped with a coaching warning.

Serving to stay in it, Li crumbled, netting to set up three match points and handing over a place in the final after a long rally.

Li had already made history as the first Chinese player to reach the last eight of an Olympic singles event.

She stunned Russian third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in round one and beat Ayumi Morita and Kaia Kanepi before pulling off an even greater upset, against Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, in the quarters.

Li had dropped just six games in her two previous matches with Safina, but the Russian came into the semi-final on a 14-match streak after winning her last two tournaments.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dinara Safina beats world number one Jelena Jankovic 6-2 5-7 6-3 to advance in the semi-finals. She will next play China's top player Na Li who beat Venus Williams in the quarterfinals.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Catch up day for women's doubles

The vagaries of the Beijing weather allied to Dinara Safina's presence as the only player left in both singles and doubles has meant Friday's women's action is largely doubles.

The only singles match features Safina's singles quarterfinal against Jelena Jankovic, which had just got to the warm-up stage when rain put an end to Thursday's play. The two are playing for the right to face Li Na in the semifinals, which will now be played on Saturday. The other semi will be an all-Russian affair between Vera Zvonareva and Elena Dementieva.

Safina also plays in the doubles with Svetlana Kuznetsova against China's best medal hopes, Yan/Zheng.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dinara Safina continued her winning form as she cruised into the next round beating China's Jie Zheng 6-4 6-3.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2008 (Reuters) — Marat Safin's U.S. Open preparations suffered a setback when the former world number one was forced to retire from his first round match at the ATP event in Washington with a neck injury on Tuesday.

The Russian sixth seed lost the first set against Italian Fabio Fognini 7-5 and then decided to withdraw from the match.

"I just blocked it and I pulled a muscle," Safin told reporters, adding that he suffered the injury on the second point of the match.

"It was getting worse and worse. I should have stopped earlier. I thought it might get a bit better, but it didn't."

Safin said he would now rest and then go to New York to prepare for the U.S. Open, which begins on Aug 25.

"I need at least four to five days to be able to turn it. I should be OK (for the U.S. Open)," he said. "I can't do much about it. It's a pity but I have to deal with it."

Despite the injury, Safin had surged into a 3-0 lead but after dropping his serve in the fifth game, the double grand slam winner requested an injury timeout.

With his flexibility restricted and his service speed well down, Safin was broken again in a protracted 11th game to give Fognini a 6-5 lead.

Perhaps we can stop using words like "promising" when it comes to players like Dinara Safina, enjoying now what you would call breakthrough seasons.

The nearly 6-foot, 155-pound Safina, like her up-and-down big brother, men's star Marat Safin, is a punisher of the ball, and has powered her way to a solid 40-13 record so far this year (after two rounds at the ongoing Olympic Games in Beijing), including three of her eight career titles and a current 12-match winning streak. She's rattled off 29 wins in her last 32 matches.

That's pretty hot.

Safina's first title of the year came in Berlin back in May, as she upended Elena Dementieva in an all-Russian clay-court finale. In her next event, Safina soared all the way into the final on the dirt at Roland Garros, only to lose to world No. 1 (at the time) Ana Ivanovic in her first-ever Grand Slam final. On her way to the title match, Safina saved match points in back-to- back matches on her way to upsetting reigning Aussie Open champ and fellow Russian Maria Sharapova in the fourth round and Dementieva in the quarters.

Following the French Open, Safina landed in another final, but was shocked by Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn in the title bout on a grass court in The Netherlands. En route to the final, Safina toppled her compatriot Dementieva, once again, in the semis.

Safina was a disappointing third-round loser (against capable Israeli Shahar Peer) at Wimbledon, but she promptly rebounded in her next tournament by capturing a hardcourt title in Los Angeles, and followed that up by corralling more hardware the following week on a hardcourt in Montreal. All this winning activity in North America produced a U.S. Open Series victory for Safina, which means she will double her prize money in New York. If Safina can win the title in Flushing, she would receive a record $2.5 million payout.

And when it comes to that precious Russian supremacy, Safina is a perfect 6-0, combined, against her fellow Top-10 countrywomen Kuznetsova (No. 3), Sharapova (No. 5) and Dementieva (No. 7) this year.

Safina opened 2008 ranked 15th in the world in singles and has shot up to No. 6, and she's ranked ninth on the planet in doubles, where she's also tallied eight career titles, including a pair this season.

Aside from an Olympic gold medal this week, the skyrocketing Safina has her sights set on the upcoming U.S. Open, where she'll be among the favorites. The powerful Muscovite reached the quarterfinals in New York two years ago, and made it to the fourth round there last year.

When you get right down to it, Safina appears to be headed toward an eventual Grand Slam title, which is something her former world No. 1 and two-time major titlist brother would know about. Safin is a former U.S. (2000) and Aussie Open champ (2005).

Did You Know?: Safina was the doubles titlist (alongside Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy) at last year's U.S. Open.

Source: The Sports Network
Scott Riley, Tennis Editor

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dinara Safina advances into 3rd round with a straight sets win over Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 7-6 6-1. She now awaits the winner of the match between China's Jie Zheng and Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives.

Meanwhile, Daniela Hantuchova lost to Caroline Wozniacki 1-6 3-6.

Safina resists Santangelo challenge in Olympic opener

BEIJING, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- No. 6 seed Dinara Safina from Russia defeated fellow Olympic debutant Mara Santangelo from Italy 6-3, 7-6(1) in her first round match of the tennis event on Monday.

Santangelo, who struggled with her serve in the opening set, provided the in-form Russian with a challenge in the second set, recovering from a 3-0 deficit to push Safina to a tie-break.

The Italian, ranked 176th in the world, broke Safina in the fourth and eighth games of the second set to level the score at 4-4. Santangelo became more confident with her forehand, producing 10 winners to Safina's four, and relied on her doubles expertise to gain points at the net.

Safina, on the other hand, produced 13 aces but gave away points by serving six doubles faults in the whole match.

"In the second set, I was up double breaks, I shouldn't have made so many double faults in those moments," Safina said after thematch. "I think that, for the first round and coming from the United States with these weather conditions, it was a pretty good match."

Safina raced to 7-1 in the tirbreak as the Italian increased her tally of unforced errors in the second set to 38.

Santangelo conveted all three of her break point opportunities in the match, even closing down Safina's 2 -0 advantage in the first set by breaking in the third game.

Safina has now extended her match-winning streak to 11, having won her last two tournaments at Los Angeles and Montreal. She faces Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez from Spain in the second round.

Daniela Hantuchova into the second round after beating Ai Sugiyama in straight sets 6-2 7-5.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dinara into the second round of the singles match after beating Italy's Santangelo in straight sets 6-3 7-6 .AFP PHOTO/PEDRO UGARTE (Photo credit should read PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Daniela was leading 6-2 3-0 against Ai Sugiyama in the 1st round singles match when rain started. Play will resume tomorrow.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

by Matthew Cronin,Special to
Updated: August 9, 2008, 8:46 PM EST

Nadia Petrova is ranked No. 18 in the world, but she won't be striking fuzzy tennis balls at the Beijing Olympics because her nation, Russia, is so rich in talent that she missed the cut.

Instead, the 26-year-old and former No.3 is heading to Cincinnati to compete against a small yet talented field that includes former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo of France and former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli.

Petrova, who competed in the 2004 Games in Athens and is a member of the Russian Fed Cup team, may not be competing in Beijing, but she has an opinion when it comes to picking who has the best shot to take home gold.

When asked to name five players with the best chance to win gold in Beijing, Petrova selected one Russian in her top 5 — Dinara Safina, the French Open finalist who just won back-to-back titles in L.A. and Montreal. The rest of her list included two Serbians — No. 1 Jelena Jankovic and No. 2 Ana Ivanovic — and Americans Venus and Serena Williams.

SAFINA: "Dinara looks so dominant — her facial expression has changed, her mental approach is different and she looks more grown up," said Petrova, whose mother Nadejda Ilina won the bronze medal at the Montreal Olympics in the 400m relay. "Reaching the French final really helped her confidence. Before she was just going to tournaments and trying to get as far as she could. Now, from what I've heard from her, she has the desire to become to No. 1 and has really set a goal for herself."

IVANOVIC: Petrova is not as enamored with the French Open champion Ivanovic's game and says it is going to be very difficult for the Serbian to impose herself as she's been unable to practice much due to a bad thumb injury.

The 20-year-old has been spectacular at times this year, but has also fallen into mini-slumps, unable to follow up her Parisian success with early exits at Wimbledon and Montreal. Petrova doesn't like Ivanovic's lack of a Plan B.

"She has big strokes, but I don't see much variety in her game," Petrova said. "Whenever something goes off, she's not able to control to the ball."

JANKOVIC: Petrova is a bit more impressed by Jankovic, who just became the first player in Sony Ericsson WTA Tour history to reach No. 1 without playing in a Grand Slam final. But she says that Jankovic's success is based more on her personal happiness than it is on pure ball striking.

"Jelena is very consistent and whenever she's playing she's going for every shot," said Petrova, who lost to Jankovic in L.A. "She's very focused from the baseline and she picks the right moments to go for her shots. As long as she's having fun, she's dangerous, but when she's kind of getting bored then it doesn't work anymore."

WILLIAMS SISTERS: Petrova readily acknowledges how dangerous the Williams sisters can be when healthy, but that's an open question in Beijing as both are coming off knee injuries.

Venus won the gold medal in singles in 2000, and she and Serena won the gold in doubles. But without having played a match on tour since winning her fifth Wimbledon title, Venus will have to round herself into form quickly. The seven-time Grand Slam champion has done so before, but given that she hasn't won a significant crown outside of Wimbledon since 2004 (Charleston on clay), her prospects are very much in doubt. In fact, Venus, a two-time U.S. Open champion, hasn't won a significant hard court tournament since Antwerp in 2003.

Serena is certainly gunning for Olympic gold and U.S. Open glory and told a few weeks ago that her year won't be satisfactory without one of those titles. But she re-injured her chronically bad knee at Stanford and like her sister is very shaky when she has to play through pain.

THE REST OF THE FIELD: Somewhat surprisingly, Petrova didn't tab another one of her countrywomen, world No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova, as a player to watch. "She hasn't had great results recently, nothing outstanding," Petrova said. "For her it's a matter of will, but she can be dangerous if she has her mind on something."

Here's a few other medal hopefuls in stacked draw: No.5 and 2000 silver medalist Elena Dementieva, who plays the Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko in the opening round; No. 8 seed and teenager Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who faces Chan Yung-Jan; rising Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, who has shown terrific form as of late; and two other teens, Slovak Dominika Cibulkova — who reached the Montreal final — as well as Dane Caroline Wozniacki, who just won a tournament in Sweden on hard courts.

Dinara on Practice Court

Source : Getty Images

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Dinara is served

How Safina rose from under-achiever to potential world No.1

Dinara Safina has been something of an under-achiever in the world of tennis during her career – that is until now. The younger sister of multiple Grand Slam champion Marat Safin is in a period of renewed confidence and looks finally to be turning her potential into actual results.

Safina had a slow start to the 2008 campaign with a first-round defeat in Australia and failing to get past the third round in major tournaments in the Middle East. The 22-year-old Russian had to wait until the European clay court season to show her ability, winning the prestigious Berlin Ladies Open by defeating former world No.1s Serena Williams and Justine Henin before overcoming Russian rival Elena Dementieva in the final.

A few weeks later Safina increased her momentum even further with her appearance in the French Open final at Roland Garros. She had huge wins over Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova and was even more impressive in the way she handled the pressure and had a determined look about her.

Her powerful groundstrokes and huge serve unfortunately did not allow her to win her first Grand Slam as Ana Ivanovic proved too strong. But at least Safina had reduced the number of double faults on her serve and her play seemed like that of a champion rather than a top-20 player, where she has been for most of her young career.

Safina needed a big tournament to really take her forward in her tennis career and her results since have shown that 2008 is the year she will gain success on a par with her brother’s achievements.

Safina played well on the grass, reaching her third successive tournament final of the year at ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, before falling in the third round at Wimbledon to Israeli Shahar Peer. Many fans would have thought such a great run of form would have ended at this point and that she would have remained a decent top-20 player, but not this time.

Safina has shown great willpower at the start of the US hard court season, with tournament victories in Los Angeles and Montreal, defeating the likes of Jelena Jankovic, Kuznetsova and Victoria Azarenka on her way. She has set herself up nicely for a good shot at the Olympic title in Beijing and also the US Open in September.

She seems unafraid of the world’s best players and I think Safina could well challenge for the No.1 spot, which has been up for grabs since the retirement of Henin. She is less than 1,000 points behind the No.1 position and has earned 2,025 of her 2,800 ranking points this year over only the past couple of months, showing she is the most consistent player on the tour at the moment, and I can see her run of form continuing.

Safina has not got too many points to defend in the latter part of 2008 and very few in the beginning of next year so she really should be fighting for that top spot in the rankings and her new found mental toughness will help her to achieve this success.

For a long time Safina has failed to live up to expectations and Sharapova, Dementieva, Kuznetsova and Petrova have overshadowed the 22-year-old, but at last she looks like a girl on a mission – watch this space!

Source:Chris Goldsmith

Marat Quotes

"Before, she was the sister of the brother, but now, I'm the brother of the sister,”
- Marat Safin,
ATP Countrywide Classic, LA 08/07/08

After early battle, Safin cruises into third round
* Ajaybir Behniwal, Bruin Sports senior staff (Contact)
* Published: Thursday, August 7, 2008

Following two upsets earlier in the day, which meant the end of the Countrywide Classic for the world's 12th-seeded Fernando Verdasco and 26th-seeded Feliciano Lopez, Marat Safin knew he had to get ahead of his opponent early.

He did just that after shaking off an unsteady first few games against Wayne Odesnik and cruising to a 6-3, 6-2 win in the second-round match.

“I played well and did what I needed to,” Safin said after the match. “I hit a couple of double faults, but I was able to come back.”

In the third game of the match, Safin was broken by his American opponent, but he displayed resilience in the next game by breaking back to even the score at 2-2.

Though Odesnik kept the match close at the onset, he was unable to convert on a game point, instead double faulting before giving Safin a 4-2 edge.

Safin then used his monstrous serve to help create a cushion that Odesnik couldn't overcome, at one time hitting an ace that even had the serving-speed display jumbling between numbers and unable to give a correct speed.

The 28-year-old Russian quickly began winning over the crowd and getting the respect he thought he deserved.

“I deserve some respect,” Safin said with a smile. “I've been on the tour for 10 years now, so I think I deserved it.”

Although the match was won with ease, there were several entertaining situations for the crowd at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, including a game with four challenges – ¬two of which were not only on the same point, but also both successful.

First, Odesnik served a ball that was called in and Safin hit a winning return.

Odesnik immediately challenged if Safin’s return was in, and the call was overturned.

Safin retaliated with a challenge of his own, claiming that the serve was long – a claim that was proven true.

The Russian went on to cruise from that point as Odesnik seemed to lose his cool and become slightly rattled.

The road hasn't been easy for Safin, however, because he is still trying to get back into top form after fighting off injuries for much of his career, since he always seems to get hurt when he catches fire.

“It's really hard to get going when I keep getting injured,” Safin said. “But I'm still running, trying to play tennis.”

After the match, Safin jokingly told UCLA alumnus and former-ATP-Tour player Justin Gimelstob that he would win a grand slam once Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal decide to retire.

Safin won't get much time to rest before his third-round match against Denis Gremelmayr, who upset the tournament's fourth-seeded Lopez, because he will take the court in doubles play tomorrow with partner and fellow countryman Igor Kunitsyn.

The two will take on a face that is fresh in Safin’s mind. On the other side of the net will be the American duo of James Cerretani and John Isner. Safin and Isner played in the first round with Safin prevailing 6-3, 6-4.

Although Safin was under the limelight at the beginning of the decade, his sister has now made a name for herself by winning several tournaments in the past few weeks, as well as making a run to the finals at the French Open.

“Before, she was the sister of the brother, but now, I'm the brother of the sister,” Safin said jokingly in an address to the fans.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Beijing 2008 Olympics

Safina becomes heavy favorite for Olympic gold

BEIJING, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- Russia's world No. 7 Dinara Safina has become a heavy favorite for the Beijing Olympic tennis event as she beat Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-1 to claim the Montreal Cup on Sunday and her second title in a row.

Safina, who is enjoying one of the most productive runs of her career, needed just one hour and eight minutes to beat unseeded Cibulkova. Last week, she claimed a WTA title in Los Angeles.

"I think my experience helped me a bit in the final, I'm sure Dominika's time will come soon though," an elated Safina told the WTA official website.

"It's the first time in my life I have won tournaments back-to-back, Usually I would win a tournament and the next week I would lose in the first round.

"So I was happy when I won the first match and then I was just taking it one match at a time."

Safina becomes the fourth player this season to win three Tour singles titles, following Maria Sharapova (Australian Open, Doha and Amelia Island), Serena Williams (Bangalore, Miami and Charleston) and Agnieszka Radwanska (Pattaya City, Istanbul and Eastbourne).

She has 28 wins and just three losses in the past three months. During that stretch she defeated nine players ranked in the top 10.

Safina will compete in the Olympic tennis event slated for Aug. 10-17 with compatriots Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva and Vera Zvonareva.

Russia has just lost world number four Maria Sharapova due to her shoulder injury.

Marat Safin advances to Los Angeles second round

Marat Safin, 5th seed, made it to the second round in Los Angeles win a 2 set win over John Isner. Safin needed only 1 break on each set to make it through.
Safin was not able to make it past the second round in Montreal and at Cincinnati but he will try to make it much further here.

But first the former world number 1 and 2 times Grand Slam Champion will need to get past Wayne Odesnik Odesnik who beat Bobby Reynolds 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in an all-American first round match.

Vince Spadea set up a second round meeting with Mardy Fish, 6th seed, by defeating Sebastien Grosjean 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. This is Spadea's 11th appearance in Los Angeles. He best results was when he reached the quarterfinals in 2003 and in 2007.

Amer Delic, a qualifer, enjoy a very nice win today. He saved all 5 break point he faced and converted 2 of the 6 break opportunities he had to scores a win over Dudi Sela for 6-4, 6-4.

Dusan Vemic enter in the main draw as a lucky loser and he earned a second round clash with Andy Roddick, top seed, after fighting during 3 sets to win 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 over Sam Warburg, a qualifier, in two hours and 54 minutes.

Andrea Stoppini, was other qualifier that took his place in the second round. The Italian won his third career ATP match in just 61 minutes against Igor Kunitsyn 6-1, 6-3. Stoppini next plays Juan Martin del Potro, the third seed who enters Los Angeles with a 10-match winning streak after taking back to back title in July.

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Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dinara Safina beat Dominika Cibulkova in the Rogers Cup final on Sunday for her third title of the year.

Watch the highlights of the week at the 2008 Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Since her victory in Los Angeles last week, Safina has been on a roll, proving that she is the player of the hour on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Not only did she win the Rogers Cup but she is also assured of victory in the US Open series, which will see her double her prize money at the US Open, up to an additional $1 million. If she should win the U.S. Open, she will get an extra $1 million in prize money, and she will win bonus money for each round she wins. That means that if she wins the Flushing Meadows event, she'll pocket $2.5 million. Bonus money also goes to the second and third-place U.S. Open Series winners.

MONTRÉAL, Canada - One of the most in-form players from the clay court season only seems to be getting even hotter on summer hardcourts. Playing a final for the fifth time in her last six events, Dinara Safina was immaculate against Dominika Cibulkova at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank, cruising to her third Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of the year with a 62 61 victory.

Safina, who was the No.7 seed at the Tier I event, blew through her first two matches of the week against Anastasia Rodionova and No.9 seed Patty Schnyder, but her next two rounds wouldn't be as routine. She rallied back from a 62 20 deficit to defeat No.4 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals, 26 63 62, then regrouped after a lopsided second set loss to end No.11 seed Victoria Azarenka's run at 10:40pm on Saturday night, 60 26 63.

On the bottom half of the draw, Cibulkova was making a much less expected run. Unseeded, she knocked off No.5 seed Elena Dementieva, No.12 seed Nadia Petrova and No.2 seed Jelena Jankovic en route to the semis, and all in straight sets, no less. Her toughest match of the week came on Saturday as she took on No.10 seed Marion Bartoli; the pair fought through tough points and lengthy rain delays before Cibulkova closed out the Frenchwoman at 10:23pm, 46 64 63.

When the two met in the final there was a clear frontrunner, however; whether it was because of Safina's impressive form or Cibulkova's long week of upsets catching up with her, the Russian's 68-minute win was a clinic from the start, as she not only overpowered the Slovak from all areas of the court but she also outrallied her when the points were drawn out, double-faulting on her first match point but sealing it with a second serve ace on her next one.

"I think my experience helped me a bit in the final; I'm sure Dominika's time will come soon though," an elated Safina said. "It's the first time in my life I've won back-to-back tournaments; I used to win a tournament then lose first round the next week. But now I'm always just taking it one match at a time. It's a new experience for me and really just amazing. I'm so happy to win today."

"I was nervous in my first big final," Cibulkova said. "I'm kind of upset with how I played in the final. I wanted to have a good match against Dinara. But I think she played really well. I hope in my next final I will play better."

Safina began 2008 with an 11-10 record, reaching quarterfinals at two events but suffering pre-quarterfinal exits seven times. Since hitting the red clay courts of Berlin she has been arguably the hottest player on the Tour however, winning trophies at Berlin, Los Angeles and Montréal and finishing runner-up at Roland Garros and 's-Hertogenbosch. Her only pre-final defeat of this stretch came at Wimbledon, where she fell to Shahar Peer in the third round in a match that lasted over three hours and saw Safina up 5-3 in the third set at one point.

Safina's semifinal victim in Montréal, Azarenka, commented on the Russian's form of late: "As you can see, since the clay court season, she's playing amazingly. I think she's playing like the No.1 player in the world."

"No.1 is still so far away; this is all coming so fast," said Safina, who has now won 27 of her last 30 matches, including the last 10 straight. "I have to take a step back and realize what I've done the last few weeks. I want to take everything one step at a time. Only God knows what will happen in the weeks coming up."

"Dinara is playing really well," Cibulkova said. "She's a hard worker. I really think she can make it."

Safina becomes the fourth player this season to win three Tour singles titles, following Maria Sharapova (Australian Open, Doha and Amelia Island), Serena Williams (Bangalore, Miami and Charleston) and Agnieszka Radwanska (Pattaya City, Istanbul and Eastbourne).

Cibulkova comes away from Montreal far from empty-handed. Her wins over Dementieva and Jankovic were her third and fourth Top 10 wins of the year (and also of her career), following wins over Venus Williams in February and Anna Chakvetadze in April. By virtue of reaching the final she is also projected to crack the Top 20 for the first time on the new rankings, up from her current ranking of No.31 and blowing past her previous career-high of No.29.

"This was a great experience," Cibulkova added. "I beat great players. Every round, I beat a better player than me. I played really well in this tournament. Hopefully in my next final I will be more relaxed and not be scared about it."

It was a week of surprises for the world's Top 4. The eventual finalists took out Jankovic and Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals but world No.1 Ana Ivanovic and world No.3 Maria Sharapova fell even earlier, with Ivanovic losing to Tamira Paszek in the third round and Sharapova withdrawing prior to her third round match against Ai Sugiyama due to a right shoulder injury. Incidentally, that injury has caused her to withdraw from the Olympics and US Open.

The doubles final, pitting doubles world No.1s Cara Black and Liezel Huber against unseeded duo Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta, followed the singles final, with Black and Huber crushing the Russian-Italian combo easily, 61 61.


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