Safina refuses to give herself a break

Dinara Safina might excel at taking breaks from opponents on court, but she is not so good at cutting herself some slack off it.

Last Updated: May 06, 2010, 19:56 PM IST

Rome: Dinara Safina might excel at taking breaks from opponents on court, but she is not so good at cutting herself some slack off it.

The 24-year-old Russian has slipped from number one to third in the world rankings, largely because of a serious back injury that has caused her to miss most of the season so far.
She returned to action at the end of April, although she has not yet been able to go back to her normal training regime and results have been poor so far with the French Open fast approaching.

But anyone who thought this might give Safina reason to relieve the pressure she puts herself under, which she admits contributed to her choking in last year`s Roland Garros final defeat by Svetlana Kuznetsova, would be mistaken.

"I still want to win a grand slam, so I have exactly the same feelings," Safina told Reuters. "Yes, I`m still putting myself under the same pressure."

The younger sister of former men`s world number one Marat Safin comes across as warm, charming and spontaneous in news conferences.

But she rejects suggestions that being so nice -- too nice -- could be the reason she came away empty handed from the three grand slam finals she has disputed; Roland Garros in 2008 and 2009 and the Australian Open in 2009.

"Everybody`s different," she said. "My brother won a grand slam and he`s hugging everybody. It`s the way you are inside."
But despite her retired brother being a twice major winner, she does not seek his advice or try to follow his example.

"We are two completely different personalities," she said. "We have different games. So it`s not really that you can learn something from him."

Safina, who lost in the second round at the Italian Open this week, bulldozed her way to the top of the rankings in April last year with a game based on her immense physical strength and fitness.

It is high-risk tennis, as the amount of power she puts into her shots lead to a high proportion of double faults and unforced errors. But she has no intention of changing strategy.

"If it`s my winning force, if I`m winning with my game, why change anything?" she said, adding she is still not sure about how she feels about losing the number one slot.

"If I`d been 100 percent fit and able to play and I`d lost it, it would have been disappointing," she said.

"But to lose it like this is a strange feeling because I wasn`t even fighting for it. I just had to stop. I felt I was not in competition because I was not playing, so it was a strange feeling. It`s like I was not a part of it."

Bureau Report