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French Fried: Safina Storms Back January 25, 2009 - 12:22 AM

SafinaThe Alize Cornet watch is over; I guess it’s time for me to pack my bags and head back to the northern hemisphere now. I just ran down from Rod Laver Arena, where I saw No. 3 Dinara Safina come back from 2-5 down in the third set to win the final five games of the match and prevail, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 over the plucky but ultimately overmatched French teenager.

In a press conference following her fourth-round loss, Jelena Jankovic had referenced the possibility that Safina will win this tournament and take over the No. 1 ranking. And the 22-year-old certainly looked like a world beater on certain points today. She has the power to blow most opponents off the court, hitting her ground strokes, particularly her forehand, extremely hard. She also has quick feet and looks like the fittest, most athletic woman out there. At 5-foot-11½, Safina has a muscular but streamlined physique; her body, much like my morning latté, is strong but fat-free.

She’s also a bit of a hothead in the style of her brother Marat. Today she lost her composure and smashed her racquet in response to some inexplicable errors. Afterwards, Safina said going down a double break in the deciding set to a player of Cornet’s caliber was unforgiveable, and the Russian essentially called herself a headcase.

“I’m just a little bit disappointed about this match, playing against this girl and allowing myself to do these kinds of mistakes,” was Safina’s blunt assessment. “She’s not serving aces, so it’s all about me.”

The sore-shouldered Cornet, who turned 19 on Thursday, must be heartbroken about the squandered opportunity. She doesn’t have the game to hang with Safina, but she did serve for the match at both 5-2 and 5-4, and had double match point in the latter game. I tend to throw the word “epic” around as casually as Marat Safin tosses insults at linesmen, but this was indeed an epic collapse. Making unforced errors on several critical points, Cornet lost her serve three straight times to end the match. Like her countryman Richard Gasquet last night, she was unable to seal the deal on match point.

Safina surmised that the magnitude of the moment must have taken its toll on Cornet when the No. 15 seed served at 5-4, 40-15: “Two unforced errors. So, well, she has never been in the quarters. I guess this was going through the mind. She never beat me. This also can go through her mind. … I guess she was just not ready for beat me.”

Safina’s surge past the faltering Cornet restored the women’s game back to its order, at least for this afternoon, but it remains to be seen if the Russian will have the mental and emotional fortitude to assert her will in the quarterfinals, where she’ll meet the winner of Sunday night's Jelena Dokic and Alisa Kleybanova match.

The bemused Safina was reluctant to assess her chances following today’s uneven performance. “The game is there,” she said. “I just don't know what's going on through my mind.”


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Posted by Roger January 25, 2009 at 01:31 AM

Did you see any tears from Alize after the match? I'm not sure the collapse was epic, since Safina just stopped making unforced errors at the end. The match was always on her racquet.

Great comparison between Safina's body and your latté! I guess that means your caffeinated beverage should also be tested for "the juice."

Posted by ragnar January 25, 2009 at 04:35 AM

love Safina.. vamos safina!

Posted by HandsomePete January 25, 2009 at 05:35 AM

Can you point to any specific pastry as your favorite accompaniment to your strong and fat free latte?

I've taken to a marble loaf from a particular coffee stop, but I'm always game for a bagel with cream cheese.

Posted by garage January 25, 2009 at 07:29 AM

yeah hehe take a look at this guyz

Posted by Naa January 25, 2009 at 08:00 AM

the last time people put their hopes on safina to do 'damage' to serena (US OPEN), look what happened? 6-3 6-2...not even a close match!!!

If Serena gets past Dementieva, the title is hers to keep.

Go Serena!!!

Posted by alex87 January 25, 2009 at 10:42 AM

Serena will never past Elena, she will lose to Azarenka or Kuznetsova before semifinal.

Posted by Fudoshin January 25, 2009 at 10:53 AM

Safina is ready for a break out in the majors. Let's see if she can do it this time.

Posted by just horsen January 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM

With JJ out this is Safina's chance. I really don't think Serena will make it to the final. She's been a little shaky this week so I'd say she's ripe for an upset.

Posted by Ivich January 25, 2009 at 11:28 AM

Looking at how the Aussies single-handedly brought Dokic back into the game tonight, I am a bit worried about Safina. Dokic is hitting the ball hard and she is creating some great angles out there. She has showed weakness only on her serve. Safina, whose mental fortitude has been rightfully questioned here, will be really tested in quarterfinals. If Safina fumbles like she did in the second set, she wouldn't get any favours like she did from Cornet. I honestly believe that if Safina gets through the Dokic match, she along with Dementieva become the strongest contenders for the title.

Posted by matt January 25, 2009 at 11:38 AM

what do you guys think of vera zvonareva chances??i thought she played pretty solid so far.

Posted by Underspin January 25, 2009 at 11:55 AM

I wish the best for safina, she is not only very entertaining interview wise, but she seems so likeable even when being blunt! that is tough to carry off without people feeling like you are full of yourself. She looks great, like she's toned up a lot. This seems like the Slam that could make her. Go Safina, not just Marat's little sister.

Posted by josephG:] January 25, 2009 at 12:02 PM

congrats to dinara who played well under pressure towards the end of this match..she kept it together and played really classy when she needed to..cornet is just not ready to make a deep run at a me she is just a clay-court player and doesnt have the power game she needs to win against the VAMOS DINARA

Posted by January 25, 2009 at 12:08 PM

I feel zvonareva could beat anyone left in the draw except serena. She's the one the other players shouldn't underestimate.

Posted by Nick E January 25, 2009 at 12:22 PM

I think it's a bit harsh to say that Cornet collapsed - true, she couldn't quite step it up when it counted, but it looked to me like Safina stopped playing badly and started playing very well as soon as the first match point came around. I suppose Cornet could have maybe put it away earlier, but there would have been no cause to say so if she'd taken one of the match points.

Posted by indianFan January 25, 2009 at 12:35 PM

How about Dementiava? Can she add a GS to the Olympic title? If only she could improve her serve and at the very least keep away from the double faults........... The women's field is wide open. Four different GS champs again in 2009. Competition is good. But I would like to see atleast a couple of women dominating like in the days of Graf,Martina etc...

Posted by Christine January 25, 2009 at 01:12 PM

The women's side is so open, I really wish someone would step up to the plate. Maria, Ana, Jelena and Serena do not seem to do well enough in the slams (or in Serena's case regular tournaments) to stay at the top. I really do miss Kim and Justine, I wish they would come back and show who's boss. I am hoping that Dinara wins this tournament, but after watching yesterdays match I question her ability. Well I believe that she has all of the skill in the world (like Marat) but it's a matter of her not going mental in the second set. She needs to stay consistent and play well the whole match if she wants to win a grand slam. I think that Dementieva can win this tournament too, she has great talent and confidence, it's just a matter of her not getting nervous and blowing the match like we have seen her do other times. I am not sure if Serena will win here, she has been playing well but I don't know if she will be able to win grand slams back to back. I personally think that if she got a little fitter, than she would be a much more dangerous, dominant player. She would be able to move around the court more and that would make her almost unstoppable. I think Vera is a great threat has well, hopefully she can prove to us that she is ready to win grand slams, but that has yet to be proved. May the best woman win and lets hope for some wonderful tennis!

Posted by tptpttp January 25, 2009 at 02:19 PM

Last year Safina defeated #1 top's when she was 1-5, the third. I think she plays very well under pressure. I had a little double watching the Cornet-Safina match. I still thought the inexperience Cornet is no match to SAfina. My question was how Safina handle her emotion, seeing her talking hershelf, I was worried. Finaly, Safina was perfect as always.
Now she is going to play Dokic next, Safina may not get through. That is not the end of the world if she loses, the matter is if Safina can handle the lost (and the final if she wins). Sportmanship is more important than the match, I guess.

Posted by Frank January 25, 2009 at 06:51 PM

Excellent comparison between Safina's body and a latte. I'll use a more direct comparison. From this 24-year-old male's perspective, Safina has the hottest body of any tennis pro right now. And it's not even close.

Posted by Mike January 25, 2009 at 08:28 PM

While it look like Safina worked extensively in the weight room - she has got the bicep to rival Nadal...Her agility continue to be a challenge and it is the main reason she make so many errors against a pusher like Cornet. I like Dokic's chance against her since she got the cty, momentum and believe or not - a bigger game than Safina..they are both mentally unstable, but Dokic coming out of middle of nowhere is a story that belong in the semis.

Dementiava is one of my favorite female player but she is got a BIG mental block when it come to winning my count, she should have at least 2-4 already...I think she is the Cedrick Pioline of our time, so close but no dice. Serena is still the heavy favorite, been there, done it, and the competiiton just got a lot weaker

Posted by erickson January 25, 2009 at 10:01 PM

with the way dokic is being backed by the partisan crowd, safina maybe vulnerable

but if her head tries to stay focus, then dokic will not be a match for safina, unless safina will "talk again to herself"


interestingly, vonareva is also playing solidly, and may do some damaging

Posted by erickson January 25, 2009 at 10:02 PM

with regards to cornet, i believe she has the quality of a top ten player, she will mature and will be better next time around

Posted by grumpy January 25, 2009 at 10:19 PM

we're going to see a lot more from Cornet, i feel, she is a really explosive player, kind of like Justine...too bad she was up against Dinara, who has that "refuse to lose" attitude...

Posted by Abigail January 25, 2009 at 10:56 PM

Nick, you're correct that it's more that Safina righted the ship than that Cornet collapsed. But still, for Alize to serve for the match twice and to have double match point... it was a squandered opportunity for sure.

Thanks to everyone for reading. And yes, the draw is opening up for Dementieva and Zvonareva for sure.

Posted by ghhtyhty January 30, 2009 at 11:20 PM


Posted by fgbhfhdbdnbdb January 30, 2009 at 11:21 PM

venus will win

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