The Year So Far In Review : Dinara Safina
Safina’s Grand Slam season reads like this; Finalist, Finalist, Semi finalist, Third Round.
Aside from the disappointing third round exit at the US Open, these are extremely solid results. Combine her Slam success with the fact that she has won three titles so far this year, including two top Premiers, (roughly the WTA equivalent to ATP’s 1000s) and anyone could be forgiven for thinking Safina has everything to be proud of.
Then we come to that giant elephant sitting in the corner. Dinara Safina is ranked number one. She is number one and those slam results read ‘finalist’, not, ‘champion’. Safina is fairly young and I am sure if she was still ranked at three, there would not be half as much concern over her lack of a major. However, she has come under increasing pressure from the media, from her fans, from the other players, and from herself, to win one of the big ones. Unfortuantly for her, she has fallen at the final hurdle twice this year, most shockingly in Roland Garros. We could have forgiven her for losing to Serena in Australia, despite playing nowhere near her best. Yet the French Open produced her finest tennis and her absolute worst tennis. Until that final, Safina was playing like the number one player in the world. Until that final, we all thought she was going to get that monkey off her back. Or the elephant out of her room, so to speak. Instead, Safina suffered what really was a humilating loss. Aside from her Wimbledon result, which was actually very good, considering it is her least favourite surface and she lost to none other than Venus Williams, Safina has been struggling since Paris.
Coming into the US Open, Safina looked absolutely terrified. She was probably almost relieved she lost to 72nd ranked Petra Kvitova in the third round. She has since talked of fighting to keep that number one ranking, but I am not sure it is all that bad of a thing if she loses it. Being the underdog would probably suit Safina well. With less pressure she may start to swing that racquet freely again. We all know she has what it takes to win, she has shown us that much in 2009. We all know she capable of playing like the world number one. What we don’t know, is how much longer it will take before she begins to believe that herself.
Overall verdict: Mixed bag