Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Safina has been having a terrific year

I didn’t write about this before because I did not get to see the match. It is against my principle to write about a match I have not seen. But for Dinara I will make an exception.

After I got home from playing tennis on Saturday, I kept checking the Tennis Channel to see if I would catch this match. Instead I spent hours being tormented by World Team Tennis (WTT) which I promise I will write about as soon as I figure out what the heck it’s all about.

I checked after tennis on Sunday and landed on WTT again, followed by a pompous sounding John McEnroe as he made a speech inducting somebody into the Tennis Hall of Fame. Except being John, it quickly became all about himself. He went on and on. When he finally revealed that at his own induction, his speech had lasted 45 minutes, I switched off the TV. If Dinara’s match was featured, I was clearly not going to see it.

It’s possible that the match was never shown. After all, this was a Tier II event, third in rank of importance behind the Grand Slams and Tier I events like the Qatar Total Open and the Rogers Cup. And when it comes to tennis coverage on TV, let’s face it, men’s tennis still dominates the screen.

Dinara had won the East West Bank Classic, a Tier II tournament played in Los Angeles, not to be confused with the Bank of the West Classic, also a Tier II event held in Stanford. The latter tournament was won by Aleksandra Wozniak, Canada’s highest ranked player. Indeed, Wozniak became the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA singles title. Her win against Serena Williams at this tournament helped push her from a singles ranking of 85 to # 45 in the world.

So it’s probably fair to ask why I am choosing to celebrate Safina over Aleksandra. Part of the reason I believe is because Wozniak should and would have lost to Bartoli if Marion had not been injured. Which is not meant to diminish Wozniak’s accomplishment in any way. She came through the qualifiers and even beat Serena along the way. But her win over a plucky but clearly injured Bartoli left something to be desired.

Safina on the other hand has been having an incredible year. Thus far she has won two singles titles – the East West Bank Classic and the German Open [photo left], the latter a Tier I clay tournament. Safina has amassed a total of seven singles and eight doubles titles. She has won tournaments on all surfaces and is currently ranked an impressive eighth in the world, just behind Venus Williams.

Safina had the honor of being the last woman to beat Justine Henin just before the former #1 decided to give up on tennis altogether. I’d like to believe that she saw the writing on the wall and recognized that with her slight frame, she was no match for 6-foot plus tall Powerbabes like Safina.

At Roland Garros, Safina mowed down Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova before losing to the eventual winner (Ivanovic) in the finals. And in Carson LA, she disposed of top seed Jelena Jankovic in straight sets in the semi-finals, thereby denying the Serb the opportunity to become the world's top player.

Despite all this, Dinara surprisingly did not initially make the cut for the Beijing Olympics. That is how competitive it is at the top of Russian women's tennis. The good news is that Russian Olympic team captain Shamil Tarpischev has since changed his mind.

UPDATE: Safina won the Rogers Cup. Now seeded seventh, Safina easily beat the unseeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in a 6-2, 6-1 victory at Uniprix Stadium on Sunday on August 2nd. I love it when I'm right. :-)

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