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Dinara's Red Pumps 09/24/2008 - 4:10 PM

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Shortly after the US Open, Master Ace (I think it was) posted a comment expressing the hope that Steve Tignor or I would show a little Dinara (Safina) love during the Tokyo Pan-Pacific Open. I think I logged in with a flip comment about how Steve was otherwise occupied with our monthly closing deadlines for Tennis, and that I didn't have it in me to, as they say, "go there." It's funny, but there's nothing more dispiriting to a writer than a lack of inspiration. Give me a topic I'd like to write about, and I'll drop everything, roll up my sleeves, and churn out enough prose to drive any potential reader into a comatose state. But give me a specific subject, and if I'm not feeling it, I'll just groan and ask myself: How much of this poop can I crank out?

In all fairness to myself, the US Open tends to burn out someone who files stories daily. But I probably felt a twinge of guilt somewhere inside, and maybe the inkling of latent inspiration. After all, can anyone doubt that Safina is a lock for the WTA's  Most Improved award?

I can't recall a recent makeover that's been as successful - and comprehensive - as the one Safina has undergone since mid-April. And while I find it hard to love her game, her record demands that I respect and accord it adequate recognition. What she's done with her tennis in the past five months has been nothing short of amazing.

Let's start with the fact that she's 22, an age at which most WTA players who have not made a big statement at a Grand Slam can almost be discounted as reliable, top-tier contenders. Oh, they may hit a torrid streak and bag a title, perhaps even two in a row, here or there. And while the bump may halve their ranking, or even propel them into the Top 10, the bump - like the one an American Presidential candidate gets following his nominating convention - tends to dissipate. It's too early to tell whether the leap Safina made this year will result in a counter-reaction, but it hasn't happened yet, which suggests it may happen not at all. Safina has been hot since mid-May, and she remains so as I write this.

Since April 20th, she's been in the final of seven of the nine events she's played (the exceptions are Wimbledon and the US Open), and unlike a few of the other recent hot streaks I can think of, it incorporated premium events in the gut of the season. In the last three majors of the year, she was a finalist (French Open), Round of 32 loser (Wimbledon, to Shahar Peer) and semifinalist (US Open, losing to Serena Williams). Last year, she never got past the fourth round.

Before the US Open semi, she was 20-1 in singles play on various surfaces. That's no mere "hot streak." That's taking the game to another level, to a degree that suggests she's a player transformed. One of the most difficult assignments in tennis, for a male or female player whose had to work his way up through the rankings as has Safina, is consoidating a place at or near the top instead of commuting in and out of the upper echelon.

We all know the reasons for Safina's outstanding play - a fitness regimen that has had obvious results, a re-dedication to maximizing her potential, and - we've heard this before, folks - a coach capable of inspiring her and, more importantly, whom she's capable of obeying. That would be Zeljko Krajan, the Croatian pro who ranked as high as no. 88 before he career was prematurely cut short by a shoulder injury. Just how the chemistry in a situation like this works remains somewhat mysterious, although not quite as mysterious as the degree to which a player with a track record as a temperamental and wildly inconsistent performer can remake herself into a champion.

My take: Krajan didn't change Safina; Safina transformed herself and put herself into a frame of mind and emotion in which a coach was able to penetrate the defenses and help deconstruct the last crumbling bricks in her wall of resistance. As always, being in the right place at the right time was a critical component in Krajan's success. When you ask Safina how her game has changed (in other words, when you ask "Why now?"), she says:  "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 (equal or better players). 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."

That Krajan has a way with Safina is also obvious. Following the warm-up before her round-of-16 match at the US Open, Safina broke down in tears. She told Krajan that she just couldn't push herself anymore - it was impossible. To which he replied (in Safina's words): "We know that you're not a machine. Just go out there and don't (do any) thinking. He told me again, just please, don't show me any emotions, like these negative emotions. If you want, don't show even positive. Just go on the court and do whatever you can this day. If it's 20% left from your body, just give this 20%. Don't use another percent just throwing the balls around and shouting. Whatever you have, just try to concentrate and put it into the game."

And Safina has a lot - groundstrokes that are the equivalent of heavy artillery, a heavy serve, a newfound mobility that will only get better now that she's also been working on her fitness with retired Croatian world-class sprinter, Dejan Vojnovic. Although it's tricky to generalize, in my experience Croatians seem, well, very grounded, self-effacing, and realistic. Those are good qualities to bring to the mix for a girl who has been cloaked in conflicting emotions and unrealistic demands and expectations as if they were badly mismatched articles of clothing. Krajan and company have taught her an important lesson that might have been borrowed from a fashion expert: get rid of the red pumps declaring your emotional neediness and dump the sequined jean-jacket that is your ability to hit winners (and make terrible errors). Pick something that matches your complexion, trim a few pounds here and there, and dress yourself in a game that enhances your assets in a solid, simple, and tasteful way.

It has paid off, so far. and Safina seems to be hearing instead of just listening. Her harsh self-evaluation after she lost the semifinal to Serena Williams at the US Open -  on a day when the conditions were atrocious -  underscores that. She said:

"Well, I think today I was feeling -- I mean, physically I was feeling better than previous days. This has nothing to do. But just I would say it's too bad from behaving side from my side. Yeah, maybe today was physically and mentally 80, but I spent 60 on being negative on the court, like shooting around and complaining about everything instead of spending 80% totally focused on just point by point. And this was -- I think I was behaving like a really spoiled girl on the court today. This I cannot permit myself playing in semifinal of Grand Slam. So I have to really learn from these things if I want to get better."

In other words, she stole back into the closet and tried on the red pumps again. But she realized it was a mistake. The next step for her will be the most difficult one: a win at a major. She'll have a great shot in Australia - if she can cleave to her fitness program during the holidays and brief off season. She couldn't ask for greater incentive: she's vying for leadership of a great generation of Russian players, and she could enter historic territory that has thus far been reserved for girls named Venus and Serena if she reaches no. 1 or wins a Grand Slam title. That is, Dinara and Marat Safin could become the only mixed gender siblings ever to win Grand Slam singles titles, or hold the top ranking.

Asked this summer if she'd overshadowed brother Marat, Safina answered like any good kid sister might: "I'm his sister. I always will be his sister."

But then she added, "To change this I have to get better results, because he has two Grand Slams. He was No. 1 in the world. I still can learn many things from him."

It's encouraging to know that she believes she can change the pecking order.


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Comments
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Posted by Arun 09/24/2008 at 04:25 PM

Safina totally deserves to receive the 'Most Improved WTA player' award.

Liftin my phone and choosing Andrew's hotline option #1! :-)

Posted by Arun 09/24/2008 at 04:26 PM

*lifting

Posted by aussiemarg{true lover of all things spanish,even learning the lingo} 09/24/2008 at 04:30 PM

arun gee there were a lot of people stating safina,i was one of them,guess we will have to share the cap???

Posted by vetmama (still basking in USO afterglow) 09/24/2008 at 04:34 PM

Okay, Pete. You know where your Kevlar ankle protectors are, right? I'm just being a friend and warning you here.:)
We shall see...

I love reading about Dinara. It's great when someone bucks the usual trend and goes from wasted talent toward peak potential. If she keeps this up and has some great results, we may have to start calling her Andre. (That's a long haul, I know)

Posted by linex 09/24/2008 at 04:35 PM

Very nice article Pete. It is very insightful.

Posted by aussiemarg{true lover of all things spanish,even learning the lingo} 09/24/2008 at 04:37 PM

great article pete,safina for me,has really come of age this year,her new coach,has really improved her movement and physical being,to me watching safina play against maria at r/garos was the start,winning silver at the olympics,her play at the us open,she didn't play percentage tennis as she should,she din't handle the wind at all,her lastest tier 1 win in japan was great,she really destroyed petrova,then beat kuzzy quite easily,she also ties with serena,with the most tour titles this year,currently no 3 and rising.

Posted by Syd 09/24/2008 at 04:37 PM

Pete,

Well you certainly have come out of YOUR closet and written an inspiring column.( I am just borrowing your metaphor, not accusing you of that other meaning. lol.)

Thanks for this. I'm a big fan of Safina's game, on my those groundstrokes, as you say: "groundstrokes that are the equivalent of heavy artillery." I keep my fingers crossed that she goes all the way in a slam next year, that she'll be able to keep enough in the tank for when she does reach the final. And still have some niggling doubts that she can stay there mentally if she comes up against Serena, but here's hoping she'll go to the next level.

Go Dinara!


Posted by Master Ace 09/24/2008 at 04:39 PM

Pete,
Appreicate you took time to talk about Dinara and her emergence this summer.

http://tinyurl.com/3gakbd
Look at 8:41 PM comment on 09/18/08.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 09/24/2008 at 04:40 PM

I enjoyed this--I hope dinara continues to do well.

Posted by Jacko (Private Detective) Luvs WTA Drama 09/24/2008 at 04:40 PM

i have to admit watching the transformation in dinara from a young emotional girl into a real mature woman and champion is a great story for tennis . .. . . and i think it is an inspiration to everyone in every walk of life showing what dedication and hard work can lead to!!!

btw, just putting it out there that i have always liked safina and believed she could be no.1 in the world!! and a GS Champ!!!!

Posted by Syd 09/24/2008 at 04:47 PM

The women's game should be interesting next year if Ana pulls herself together and develops some consistency, and Sharapova returns healthy and fit. There will be a really great mix in the top eight or ten players.

Posted by John 09/24/2008 at 04:48 PM

Pete,

We thought your post would be on Kamakshi Tandon !!

Has Kamakshi left Tennis.com??

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 09/24/2008 at 04:59 PM

Ty Pete, I was thinking among the same lines, like what she's done and does Krajan have a sister that takes pupils?

Posted by Master Ace 09/24/2008 at 04:59 PM

After losing her last match in Charleston to go 11-10, Dinara has gone 41-5 with titles in Berlin, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Tokyo. After she won Berlin, she w/d from Rome and she continues to play well. Now, she w/d from Beijing after winning Tokyo is a smart move also as she still has Stuttgart and Moscow on her schedule before the YEC in Doha.

Aussiemarg,
Dinara start came when she defeated Justine Henin, Serena Williams, and Elena Dementieva to take the Berlin title. All 3 matches she rallied from a set down to win. Since then, Justine retired, Serena won USO and a finalist at Wimbledon, and Elena won Olympic Gold. Winning Berlin was a great jumpstart to her form.

Dinara 5 losses since the beginning of Berlin
French Open - Final to Ana Ivanovic
s'-Hertogenbosch - Final to Tamarine Tanasugarn(fav surface is grass)
Wimbledon - 3rd round to Shahar Peer (Dinara tank was empty deep in the 3rd set as Shahar was retriving balls consistently)
Olympics - Final to Elena Dementieva
United States Open - Semifinal to Serena Williams,who ended up winning the title

Great post to read!

Posted by Jacko (Private Detective) Luvs WTA Drama 09/24/2008 at 05:02 PM

master ace i'm actually curios about the withdrawals cos all of them she's stated a back injury of some sort. she pulled out of rome, birmingham, beijing . . ..think thats all with the back injury. is there an ongoing problem we don't know about??

Posted by Emma (murray's mint, but he's not rafalicious!) 09/24/2008 at 05:07 PM

Pete, great post, i really liked it.

It's nice to see the player that dinara has developed into, in my opinion, she is one a about 5 or 6 wta stars who have the potential to fill the vacuum that justine henin left when she retired. watching safina recently has reminded me (a self confessed ATP tennis KAD), how exciting ladies tennis can be. i really hope she'll get to number one, and am pretty sure she'll win her first slam next year.
go safina!!

Posted by prince49 09/24/2008 at 05:10 PM

Pete, you note about her age got me thinking .. pro tennis and the tennis tour is so brutal.. and the peak careers of the athletes are so short .. you need to show your potential before such a tender age of 22 .. i know this is Safina's article .. but still have to admire Serena's and Venus's longevity at staying relevant ..

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 09/24/2008 at 05:12 PM

yeah! dinara finally gets some lurve! loved the writeup on her Pete. She seems somewhat surprised, but very pleased and determined about her game now. i noted what she said about being a spoiled girl and thought it was very smart if her to realize it so quickly and pleased that she sounded so determined not to permit that.

so good on her!

interesting also to contemplate what the right coach at the right time can do for a player's game. Dinara always had the tools and the potential, but its only now there's the right mix for her to pull it all together.

(i also had to laugh at the fashionista reference, as i'm watching a project runway marathon at the moment...)

Posted by Master Ace 09/24/2008 at 05:15 PM

Jacko,
Good question about her back. Forgot about the w/d of B'ham after being in the finals at the French Open. Dinara normally play a lot of tournaments but she would lose before the QF so she would make the next one but with her success, she may have decided to not overextend herself.

Posted by Jacko Faints Due to A.M's Fierceness!! 09/24/2008 at 05:32 PM

hmmmm master ace . . .time for my private detective skills to investimagate!!!LOL

Posted by ND 09/24/2008 at 05:32 PM

"""
It has paid off, so far. and Safina seems to be hearing instead of just listening.
"""

Isn't this backwards? I thought listening trumped hearing. Maybe that's why my game sucks :). I guess Safina and Murray have made me makes revisit the causality between winning and confidence. My belief right now is: first you have to train really hard, then you have to believe that you trained hard, and then you will win. The chicken-egg question has be laid to rest!

Posted by avid sports fan (smiling and believing in miracles) 09/24/2008 at 05:36 PM

Pete - Nice article on Dinara but we TWibers have not short shrifted her ;-)

Like Master Ace, now that Dinara is doing better, I believe she knows she has to pace herself so she will not over-etxend. Also I had said she should be a lock in for most improved player and possibly nominated for player of the year (although this may probably go to Serena).

However, in general, if the WTA sees constant improvement with the players, it will take a while to have a dominant no. 1 again as the top players will all always have a legitimate shot at the position.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 09/24/2008 at 06:13 PM

avid - do you mind if there's not a 'dominant' #1? personally, i don't as long as the contenders are all strong contenders and there's a battle for the ranking.

what i DON'T want to see is it passed around like a hot potatoe cause noone can sustain a run of good play.

Posted by avid sports fan (smiling and believing in miracles) 09/24/2008 at 06:21 PM

jb - I don't mind at all. I am with you on the contenders are all strong contenders and there's a battle for the ranking.

I just mentioned that because it has been said a lot on TW but possibly what most people mean may be what you said as well.

Posted by aussiemarg{true lover of all things spanish,even learning the lingo} 09/24/2008 at 06:46 PM

yes i suppose i should have made myself clearer as master ace has pointed out re safina win in Berlin tournmament,i really was impressed with her play in r/garos,not only defeating maria,but it was her mental strength,that was strong,she has been quite fragile in that area,i really thought she could have gone on to win,sometimes you have to lose a g/slam to win one,i feel safina can only get stronger, vamos safina.

Posted by beth 09/24/2008 at 06:58 PM

nice write up about Safina
she has put in the hard work and it has shown in her results
I am glad for her

but , I still love red pumps
just not on a tennis court :)

Posted by Samantha Elin 09/24/2008 at 07:37 PM

Pete, great post. I would agree that I find it also hard to love her game, but I always look for Justine in players. She doesn't have the beauty of Justine but who does? She is a hard worker and she definetly has the game to win a slam. I also think a case can be made that she deserve to be world #1 which I think she will. I'm enjoying her rise to the top and I think she could teach her big brother a lot. Good luck to her. Go Caroline!

Posted by Master Ace 09/24/2008 at 07:59 PM

Samantha Elin,
May be too late to teach Marat but with Dinara getting to number 1 would be a good accomplishment and story for the WTA. Speaking of her, winning 3 Tier I titles in a season is not eacy to do.

Posted by JillfromNY 09/24/2008 at 08:05 PM

Thanx for writing about Dinara. I like her so much. She's a part of that Plain Jane, tall and big girl tribe, but lots more authentic, genuine and likeable than tribemate Lindsey Davenport.

Posted by Samantha Elin 09/24/2008 at 08:14 PM

Patrick, the three tier l title is one of the reasons why I don't have a problem with her being #1.

Posted by Syd 09/24/2008 at 08:19 PM

Samantha's post reminds me: Would have liked you to expatiate on why you don't love Dinara's game Pete. Fascinating.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 09/24/2008 at 08:31 PM

Samantha Elin: your reasoning makes sense. I had been wondering why you had so much more respect for dinara than jj.

Posted by Samantha Elin 09/24/2008 at 08:56 PM

Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. D, it come down to my belief that JJ's credentials, winning l title this year isn't sufficient to justify a #1 ranking by any player. Sorry, but it's not enough for me.

Posted by Tony 09/24/2008 at 09:08 PM

The great thing about Safina is that she's REAL. No airs, no illusions about herself, and she seems to be a very friendly person. In Tokyo, she was self-effacing, almost humble, giving Svetlana credit, and was herself. A refreshing presence on court, and I suspect off-court as well. Even the old antics, they were mostly directed at herself. Like Pete, I don't really like her game at all. She's too one-dimensional as a player. But who knows, she has demonstrated herself to be a level-headed girl and could push herself to learn other ways of playing the game... She deserves every credit, and she has been one of the really inspiring stories on tour this year.

Posted by Samantha Elin 09/24/2008 at 09:10 PM

One last thing, look at it this way, if Rafa had won l tier l title this year and Fed had his record with his USO win, would anybody argue that Rafa really deserved to be #1 if he got there by playing a lot of tournaments, quantity over quality. Go Caroline!

Posted by grumpy 09/24/2008 at 11:30 PM

i love Dinara, she's got that way of walking that reminds me of John Wayne, kind of tilted to the side... i love that she's so tall and strong, she walked past me this summer at a tournament i attended in L.A., she gives off a definite aura, one of intensity and purpose, but kind also...and i like how she often thanks God when interviewed after a match, to me that's refreshing...

Posted by Aussie Angel (All Aboard the Crazy Elf Train) 09/24/2008 at 11:31 PM

Pete thanks for this post, I have been on the Safina bandwagon since Berlin and I like the way she is going about her game. I like the chemistry she has with her team and it showed up in Tokyo with congratulatory hugs.

I really felt for her when she lost against Peer at Wimbledon because she was in a winning position.

Her self analysis after playing Serena shows she is growing up and I actually like her game.

Cannot wait to see her and Marat playing Hopman Cup together.

Go Dinara next WTA's No. 1.


Posted by Lleytsie 09/25/2008 at 01:08 AM

loved it - but i dont know ... there is just something missing

i cant put a finger on it

Pete - you promised us you wud ask our opinions on the book, i still have them in my notes

?

Posted by Tson 09/25/2008 at 01:31 AM


Dinara may be the player with the hottest streak right now

but what i can't forget was her gold medal match at the Olympics

where she produced at least 18 double faults

and she would lose her serve after reaching 40-0 many times

her errors galore ad nauseam.

ugly ugly ugly, low quality match

I believe that Dinara with that performance did not deserve a medal of any color.

Posted by Nic 09/25/2008 at 01:55 AM

Aussie Angel - Was that match at Wimbledon the won where Safina had a terrible cramp at the end of the third? I remember her crying in agony and disappointment as she was serving, unable to transfer her weight onto her cramped leg and having to paddle the ball pathetically with her body straight on. It was really awful and I felt terrible for her.

I've really enjoyed watching Dinara this year, she shows a lot of passion and fight, often coming back from losing positions. And she's been very charming off court as well. Between her and JJ I now have a reason to follow the WTA.

Posted by rg.nadal 09/25/2008 at 05:11 AM

Safina is here to stay. It would be very interesting to see who between Safina and JJ would win their first slam.

Posted by Aussie Angel (All Aboard the Crazy Elf Train) 09/25/2008 at 06:03 AM

Nic yes it was and Peer wasn't playing that fantastic.
Dinara could hardly stand or serve. But at the end of the day she prolly should of won the match a lot earlier.

She is prolly one of handful of females that I actually enjoy watching. And I love her pressers.

Posted by Jody 09/25/2008 at 06:50 AM

I love Dinara, she's such a great player. She's defentely here to stay, she will win her first slam and be number one soon. That's a guarentee.

Posted by Kelly 09/25/2008 at 06:57 AM

Thank you for finally putting up a nice article about Dinara. She has so much talent and she really deserves the WTA's most improved award. Dinara is the reason I'm following woman's tennis again.

Posted by Master Ace 09/25/2008 at 07:47 AM

Nic and Aussie Angel,
Do you know that Dinara(w/Agnes Szavay) and Shahar(w/Vicotria Azarenka) played against each other in doubles later that same day after that match at Wimbledon? Lot of people was wondering would Dinara w/d due to her being on low in the single match with Shahar.

Posted by Second Serve 09/25/2008 at 08:11 AM

Pete,

I was me who opened that can of worms, although credits are due to Master Ace for insights that others were not willing to dispense at the moment. With both Roger and Rafa playing on the same weekend, I can understand.

Thanks for giving Dinara some love. Don't know her chance of finishing the year at #1, but she certainly has the momentum. In tennis, it is not all about the face. Study the game, weight the competition, and I believe she does deserve more love than Jesse Huta-Galung.

Posted by Master Ace 09/25/2008 at 09:16 AM

Second Serve,
You deserve credit for this one and that is why I posted last week's link @ my 4:39 PM post yesterday to replay the scneario.

Posted by Aussie Angel (All Aboard the Crazy Elf Train) 09/25/2008 at 09:30 AM

MA thanks for the reminder on the doubles I thought one of them pulled out.

It's a shame that the doubles match had to go ahead as both girls would of been exhausted and it would of made sense to play the next day but this is not a perfect world but a gs event.

Posted by just tennis 09/25/2008 at 09:37 AM

thank you for this wonderful article about Dinara. She is indeed the next big thing in women's tennis and I wont be surprised if she contunues to dominate next year.

About the Olympic final, it was even amazing that she was still able to win one set.

Prior to that Sunday final, Safina played two matches Friday night, one against Jelena and the other a doubles match against the Chinese duo which ended almost 3am Saturday.

Then after a few hours , first match on Sat she had to play her semis singles against China's Li Na.

It was understandable then that she was physically exhausted that Sunday.

Posted by Maplesugar at work 09/25/2008 at 10:01 AM

Thanks for the article on Safina. I've been a fan of hers for a couple of years now and am so glad that she has pulled it all together for an impressive run at #1. I admire her candor, her aggressive, hard-fought wins, and her sweet personality. If she didnt' walk exactly like her brother, she could be a babe-in-the-rough...pretty, pretty face. I like her best of all the young women players.

Posted by Maplesugar at work 09/25/2008 at 10:02 AM

P.S. I don't get the "red pumps" reference.

Posted by Todd and in Charge 09/25/2008 at 10:51 AM

Nice article. I've noticed a huge uptick in her fitness level, her ability to stay in points due to conditioning seems much improved. She seems lighter on her feet and more nimble and quick. Her legs in particular seem both stronger and more reliable in crunch situations.

This is something I'd like to see Sharapova improve on as well.

Posted by abc 09/25/2008 at 11:14 AM

Great article on Dinara Pete.
John - on Mondays post Kamakshi said her byes to her readers. Not sure if other's will agree with me but I think she is a great loss to Tennis.com. Her writing was elegant and well researched and her work ethic was impeccable. Website always updated and articles posted at wee hours of the morning. I am sure Ed will carry on the good work. Hope somebody picks her up real quick so her fans can start reading her articles again.

Posted by unknown 09/25/2008 at 11:24 AM

"Thanx for writing about Dinara. I like her so much. She's a part of that Plain Jane, tall and big girl tribe, but lots more authentic, genuine and likeable than tribemate Lindsey Davenport."


You think so? I can't get on the Dinara bandwagon. What is so loveable about her? Her bad temper? Her boorish ways? I just don't get the attraction.

Posted by unknown 09/25/2008 at 11:30 AM

"If she didnt' walk exactly like her brother, she could be a babe-in-the-rough...pretty, pretty face. I like her best of all the young women players. "

To each his own,but IMO she looks like her brother in a dress. That is not a good thing.

Posted by Maplesugar at work 09/25/2008 at 11:47 AM

Well, we all can't help how we look, can we? At the end of the day, that's not what really matters.

She is quite charming in interviews, and for me, I credit Dinara for getting me interested in women's tennis again. I like her spunk.

Posted by Bobby 09/25/2008 at 01:23 PM

Pete, thanks for writing about Safina. She's playing great tennis – and perhaps more important has really improved and continues to improve – and deserves a piece like this. Love the fashion analogy. :) But why do you "find it hard to love her game"?

Posted by Master Ace 09/25/2008 at 02:12 PM

Bobby,
My guess on Pete not liking her game is due to the fact that Dinara's game is power based with little variety (Samantha Elin may call that "ball bashing") like Justine Henin or Amelie Mauresmo. However, with improved conditioning, she is able to be a tad more patient until she is in a position to go for her shots and when things go awry, she does not lose it mentally like she did pre-Berlin(11-10).

Posted by USB_Interface 09/25/2008 at 02:48 PM

After Justine retired I have no more interest in the women's game. There's not a single player that combines power and finesse the way she did. All the top players are mindless ball bashers(Ana, Shrap, Williams) or punch-less retrievers(Dementevia, Jankovic). Not worth watching.

Posted by Eric 09/25/2008 at 04:36 PM

I really like Safina. As a person. Not that I know her. But she seems more likable than Jelena and her pseudo-drama or the calculated, bitchy Sharapova, the headline-hogging Williams sisters and the paper tiger Ivanovic. She's got more charisma than her counterparts in the no-frills Kunetsova and the willowy, slightly dorky Dementieva. I think Safina is the most likable chick since Monica Seles or Arantxa Sanchez, and she's got the veneer of a champions pedigree while showing the same vulnerabilities that once endeared us to Justine Henin.

I just name-dropped like half the women's field but I think in sum, Dinara's got more juice than all of them (except for the Williams sisters when they're on their A-games).

Posted by Maya 09/25/2008 at 07:42 PM

Dinara is great player. Always has been. I like the way she is winning her ranking points. Winning big matches. So what she did not win a GS yet? I think if she would have won the French open this year...she would have not done great on Hard court or Olympics or may be ever in future. There is also a term called "coming too soon". She has to learn from her losses. If she would have won a major this year..she will be confused in mind. Marat won his first ever major at age 20. It was his first time in Final of a major. In same year AO, he was fined for not trying. But ended up winning a major and even got to #1 ranking. When it comes too soon...it came be a problem. So i think Dinara is on the right path. She needs to stay focus and just play her game.

I wont be surprised in she becomes #1 this year tho. she is about 300 points behind from #1 ranking. If she would have played in china cup and won, she would have gotten that top spot i think.

Posted by gliciousness 09/25/2008 at 08:52 PM

It's easier for a player to get a most improved player award when the other players around them have so many problems like fitness. The WTA stars have seen better days. But she does deserve it. But her game still doesn't attract me.

Posted by Tson 09/26/2008 at 04:34 AM


Safina merely relies on her opponent's errors to win the match.

But she really has more errors on her own.

like brother, like sister.

Posted by frankissss 09/26/2008 at 10:24 AM

Dinara is a great player. She has some problems on the court, but she is improving more and more. Her play is very agressive and is not very atractive for me, but Dinara Safina can keep a rallie.
Psychologically, she is more mature.
Go Dina!!!!!!!!!!!!

You are the best, not as Shutapova, "uglyIvanovic", and company.

Posted by unknown 09/26/2008 at 10:25 AM

"I really like Safina. As a person. Not that I know her. But she seems more likable than Jelena and her pseudo-drama or the calculated, bitchy Sharapova, the headline-hogging Williams sisters and the paper tiger Ivanovic. She's got more charisma than her counterparts in the no-frills Kunetsova and the willowy, slightly dorky Dementieva. I think Safina is the most likable chick since Monica Seles or Arantxa Sanchez, and she's got the veneer of a champions pedigree while showing the same vulnerabilities that once endeared us to Justine Henin."

"Headline-hogging Williams sisters?" This is no fault of theirs.

Posted by Eric 09/26/2008 at 01:17 PM

re: above

I'd argue that the Williams sisters do seek the spotlight a bit more than the others. When you appear on a David Blaine primetime special (magicians?), try to push a fragrance line and a fashion line, attempt to dabble in Hollywood, etc, there is a bit of clear pursuit there. It's not really about the tennis anymore. Kournikova, anyone?

And I say this being a big fan of the Williams' games; I'm just less a fan of their dedication TO their games. I imagine that whole diva thing, up close and personal, is probably pretty gruesome.


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