NY Sports Day

Safina Survives Scare

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It’s supposed to be easy now to Dinara Safina. She’s the World’s No. 1 women’s player. This is supposed to be her time and her place where she cruises to her first Grand Slam of her career.

But no one told her first round opponent Australian Olivia Rogowska, ranked 167th in the world.

Instead of cruising to the next matchup. Safina struggled. First losing the first set, 7-6, then after taking the second set, 6-2, had to rally to take the final after being down 3-0 for a 6-4 win.

“I’m just like, I had so many opportunities, the set just didn’t go into my hands,” Safina said. “5-3, two balls that she hit, one on the line, one return, and then she kind of frame, I don’t know what, and the ball touched just a little bit, you know.

“Played terrible game on 5-4, Love-30 on her serve, and there I didn’t do anything and I would say poorly tiebreak from my side. But, you, know, I lost it, and definitely I would never give up. Just okay, second set, okay, just try to do more.”

This just may be the wakeup call the 23 year-old needs. All her life she has a goal to be No. 1 and now that she is at the top, it’s very easy to drop off. And she knows all she has to blame for it would be herself.

“I try to do something good, but when it doesn’t go good, then I go like too much into myself, what I’m doing right, wrong, instead of thinking more what I have to do with the ball,” she said. “I don’t know. I guess it’s just –the time, you know, it’s just there and you’re playing. Sometimes things go, some balls doesn’t go. Then, you know, I hit — I don’t challenge the ball and the ball is like this out. Then she challenged the ball and the ball is like this in.

“Just like everything goes wrong, but you still somehow manage, you know, to pull the match out, you know. I guess, you know, I had to do everything today. It was a bad day and then some good points. So hopefully from today on it’s going to get better.”

Safina has some help. She can look to her brother Maret Safin, who struggled early on in when he won the 2000 US Open. Much like his sister, Safin had to rally in the first round to beat Sebastien Grosjean, which paved the way for his only Queens win.

“He won 7-6 in the fifth set, and they finished, I think it was 5-4,” Safina said. “He was up and the rain started, so they finished another day. So and then he had another like difficult match against Pozzi. So I remember he said he was struggling from the first round, but he made it. So maybe I’m following his steps this time.”

Possibly, but Safina will have to face stiff competition. Serena Willias cruised in her first round and aria Sharapova, who is looking for a comeback is pretty much could have played a ball machine rather than Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova. Even an injured Venus Williams was able to eek out a win, which means she will be much stronger next round.

All this means is that it’s tough at the top and Safina only has one person to fall back upon – herself.

“I don’t really like think let’s say I’m No. 1 and like this,” she thought. “No. I think what I have to do. So it’s not really that I step on the court and I’m thinking, oh, I’m No. 1. I cannot lose this match. I mean, definitely, nobody is unbeatable in this world. I just think what I have to do right. That’s the only thing. But not really that say like, Oh, I cannot lose. More I think like what I have to do.”

And she better, when she faces German Kristina Barrois on Thurday.

“I know her,” she said. “I saw her playing. She’s a great player. Like very good serve. She does everything on the court. So it’s not easy match, but I still think that I have to focus more on myself, what I have to do, than to think what she can put against me.”


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