Safina "I almost quit"
Dinara Safina has admitted that she was on the verge of quitting tennis after a third-round defeat in Doha last February.
Fortunately her coach Zeljko Krajan convinced her she had the talent to succeed and the 22-year-old Russian has responded with a run of form that would have made her the envy of any of the great players of the past.
Since winning the German Open in Berlin with a win over Serena Williams and another over Justine Henin that sent the Belgian into retirement, Safina, younger sister of former world number one Marat Safin, has not looked back.
The Russian has reached the French Open and Beijing Olympics finals, the US Open semi-finals and won titles in Los Angeles, Montreal and Tokyo.
She has won 42 of her last 47 matches, climbed to number three in the rankings, and could be number one by the end of the season.
That success contrasts starkly with her form at the beginning of the season, when she lost in the first round in Sydney, then to an opponent ranked 194 in the opening round of the Australian Open, followed by a Fed Cup match against Israel's Shahar Peer.
"At the beginning of the year it was really terrible," she said at the Stuttgart Open. "I could already give up and say, 'Okay, I've had enough of this. I'll go and study or something'.
"Really, at the beginning of this year I was so deep in the hole I didn't know how to get out of there. I was completely lost. I was not enjoying it. It wasn't that I stopped loving this game, but it was why do I have to suffer so much? I'd go on the court and nothing is going on, and it was really a disaster."
Krajan managed to instill the confidence Safina lacked.
"He had to because I was not really a very positive or confident person, and he had to repeat a million times a day that I can play tennis, that I can hit the ball, I can be good," she said.
"He was patient enough to repeat this, and finally I began to believe more in myself.
"I stayed patient and thought maybe I have to work harder and give myself time to get better. After this it started to pay off with my results.
"I think in the crucial moments I was suffering so much, so now, in the tough moments, I'm more positive and I'm like okay, I've been in worse moments so I'll get out of here. It's made me stronger."
If she wins Sunday's final here, Safina says she will reward her Croatian coach Zeljko Krajan for his faith in her by handing over the keys to her prize of a brand-new Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabrio - worth 98,500 US dollars.
"Winning the Berlin Open in May was really the key to my tennis life," said the 22-year-old.
"I felt completely lost before that tournament.
"My performances on court were a disaster and I was on the verge of calling it quits.
"It is only due to my coach that I am still here.
"If someone asked me at the beginning of this year if I could finish the year in the top five, I would have burst out with laughter.
"But I have promised my coach that if I win a grand slam event I will buy him a Mercedes Car.
"I had that in my mind at the French Open and I wanted to win it for him, but I didn't - so now if I win the Porsche I will definitely give it to my coach - for sure."
"I think if people ask, How is Marion Bartoli? They will always respond, She's a nice person. That's what I'm most proud of..