DOHA // Dinara Safina travelled to Qatar for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships in buoyant mood, having risen from 17th in the world rankings to No 2 in the second half of the year. Two days into the end-of-season showpiece, the Russian was ready to pack her bags after being put firmly in her place by the Williams sisters, whose reduced commitment to the tour has led to lower ratings but, as Safina painfully discovered, little or no reduction in ability.
Firstly, Safina was dispatched by the Wimbledon champion Venus and then, in the early hours of yesterday, was well beaten 6-4, 6-1 by the US Open champion Serena, leaving her hopes of a bumper pay day from the record prize pool of US$4.55m (Dh16.5m) in tatters. Safina, the highest ranked of four Russians taking part here, is likely to be followed through the departure door by Ana Ivanovic, who is a pale shadow of the player who rose excitedly to the top of the world by winning the French Open less than five months ago.
Since then, she has suffered through injury and loss of confidence and endured a series of surprise defeats in matches she had been expected to win. Losing her first encounter in Doha to her Serbian compatriot Jelena Jankovic, the world No 1, was no disgrace but when her survival prospects depended on beating the eighth-ranked Russian Vera Zvonareva in the second of her three round- robin matches, Ivanovic yet again came up short.
Again fitness, or the lack of it, was an issue as the fourth seed's 21st birthday celebrations were marred by the unusual occurrence of having her blood pressure checked on court as she slumped into her chair fatigued and seemingly dehydrated. firstname.lastname@example.org