No.1 Spotlight: Dinara Safina
Published July 16, 2013 12:00
Dinara Safina may have spent her early years on the circuit being referred to as 'Marat's little sister', but it was not long before she was furrowing her own path to tennis greatness. After learning her craft at the legendary Spartak Tennis Club in Moscow, when Safina was eight, the family moved to Valencia to support her brother's burgeoning career.
Whilst there, Safina flourished, honing her game on the unforgiving Spanish clay. At just 16, she won her first WTA title in Sopot, and before leaving her teens, she had racked up three more, including a thrilling upset of Amélie Mauresmo in Paris. This was at the French capital's less-famed venue, but it was not long before the Russian was making an impression on the great and good of Roland Garros, winning an epic encounter with compatriot Maria Sharapova en route to the 2006 quarterfinals.
A few years later she returned to reach the final, where she was denied by an inspired Ana Ivanovic. Now established as a mainstay at the top of the game, Safina was rapidly carving a niche as the tour's most consistent performer, reaching 13 finals over the following 15 months and wrestling the No.1 spot from Serena Williams. Unfortunately, a persistent back injury saw her slip down the rankings in 2010 before forcing her into an extended break from the sport the following spring.
• Reached Grand Slam finals at 2008 French Open, 2009 Australian Open and 2009 French Open
• Rose to World No.1 for first time in April 2009
• Silver medalist in singles at 2008 Olympics
• 12-time WTA titlist, including her first title in Sopot in 2002 as a qualifier. Her four titles won in 2008 tied for the WTA lead
• Among her nine WTA doubles titles was a triumph at the 2007 US Open alongside Nathalie Dechy. Got as high as No.8 in the world in doubles
• Member of Russian Fed Cup Team in 2005-06, 2008 and 2011, and clinched winning doubles point for 2005 championship team
• Won WTA's Most Improved Player Award in 2008