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Old Aug 5th, 2008, 04:30 AM   #1
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Post News, Articles, Interviews - Anything Dinara

And a Russian Cat Shall Lead Them by Todd Spiker - Aug 04, '08



A few months ago, everyone was wondering which player would benefit most from Justine Henin's sudden retirement from the sport.

Everyone from Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova to Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic was mentioned as a potential beneficiary, and most top players (but hardly all) HAVE indeed experienced gains helped at least in some small part by the gaping hole left in any draw that would have otherwise included La Petit Taureau. But no one really singled out Dinara Safina as one of the women who might see her career results spark in the post-Henin era.

How stupid were we? Considering the Russian Cat was the last player to actually defeat Henin, in Berlin, the tennis Gods couldn't have made the clue much more blatant. I'm sure They're making all sorts of "mortal" jokes even as I speak.

Thing is, Safina is suddenly the hottest player on tour. Her win in Montreal gave her back-to-back titles, a U.S. Open Series championship, a new career-high rank of #7, a 27-3 record dating back to the spring and the honor of easily being dubbed the current "best Russian female tennis player in the world"... even if the rankings don't necessarily back it up. Yet.

After knocking off the likes of Henin and Serena to win in Berlin, then surviving match points in multiple matches en route to the Roland Garros final and coming back from the edge of defeat once again to win a title in Los Angeles a week ago, Safina "took it easy" in Quebec. Her two three-setters last week came in matches against Svetlana Kuznetsova and Victoria Azarenka, but she never found herself walking "The Green Mile" in the same way she's been doing off-and-on the last few months, and then Dominika Cibulkova was but a shadow of her Top 10er-conquering self in the final.

As the Olympic tournament gets under way in Beijing less than a week from now. Safina's name will have to be thrown into the ring as a potential favorite to walk away with a Gold Medal, even while she's still something of an "anonymous" Hordette and many sports fans around the world (and ESPN broadcasters, no doubt) likely remain more familiar with her brother than her.

"She's Marat's sister? But her name's Safina, not Safin. I'm confused, mommy. My head hurts." (And that's just a comment overheard in the White House.)

They say the fish rots from the head (amazingly, no, that is not a Bush joke), but what's to be made of a tennis player who's career seems to have turned around as soon as she got her head screwed on tightly in spite of the odds against it happening to someone in her athletic family? But what else do you expect in a sport where Miss Jankovic is soon to be the #1-ranked player?

Last edited by enchantrezz : Sep 23rd, 2008 at 04:06 AM.
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