x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Safina has stage and motive to succeed

Described by some as "unworthy" of the world No 1 ranking, Dinara Safina knows it is high time she delivered the grand slam title that will silence her critics.

Described by some as "unworthy" of the world No 1 ranking, Dinara Safina knows it is high time she delivered the grand slam title that will silence her critics. The commendably consistent Russian is seeking to take inspiration from the splendid accomplishment of her big brother, Marat, in New York nine years ago when he overcame the redoubtable Pete Sampras to announce his arrival as one of the game's leading lights.

"I don't care, I don't care," was Safina's latest response to the apparent rankings anomaly which indicates that she is currently superior to Serena Williams, who has increased her haul of grand slam titles to 11 this year by thrashing Safina in the Australian Open final and then beating big sister Venus to claim Wimbledon honours. But Safina clearly does care and is desperate to end a run of three abject failures in major finals, which includes a hammering in this year's battle for the French Open title at the hands of Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Safina, 23, has become adept at reaching finals - 15 of them in as many months - but cannot seem to find her most devastating form when it really matters. This time she hopes it will be different. "This grand slam is something special for me, because of my brother," she said. "To see Marat holding the trophy, just being a sister, you get some unbelievable feelings. "I also started my professional career here and I won doubles here in 2007 [with Nathalie Dechy] so why not singles?"

It would be poignant if she marked the last grand slam appearance of Marat before his retirement by lifting the trophy on what the Americans refer to as Super Saturday in 12 days' time. "I still cannot imagine that next year I'm going to be alone here because I'm so used to having him next to me," added Safina. "It's sad." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae