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.