Safina Wins Biggest Career Title in Berlin
Published May 11, 2008 12:00
BERLIN, Germany - She toppled two of the game's heavyweights along the way and held her nerve against one of the grittiest competitors around in the final, emerging with her sixth and biggest career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title. It was all in a week's work for Dinara Safina at the Qatar Telecom German Open.
If the seeds held, Safina wouldn't have even passed the round of 16. No.13 isn't really perceived as the luckiest number, but as Safina's seeding it made absolutely no difference, as she outlasted top seed Justine Henin to reach the quarterfinals then pulled off another huge upset over No.5 seed Serena Williams - who was on a 17-match win streak - to reach the semis. She beat unseeded Victoria Azarenka to reach the final then rallied back from a one set deficit to overcome No.7 seed Elena Dementieva for the title, 36 62 62.
"I played a lot of drop shots and I think that really helped to win today," Safina stated. "I didn't move that well at the beginning, even though I know I have to move really well for my game and use all the power I have; I thought 'Come on, you've got to make it today,' and I fought my way back in."
"I played well in the first set but then Dinara started to move much better and got more first serves in," Dementieva said. "I had problems returning and just wasn't as consistent as I needed to be to win today. I could see over the entire week that Dinara was playing well and her success today pays off all the hard work and discipline she put in over the years."
Safina's wins over Henin, Williams and Dementieva were her ninth, 10th and 11th career Top 10 wins; her victory over Henin was her second career victory over a reigning world No.1, after beating Maria Sharapova at Moscow in 2005.
"I hope I won't wake up tomorrow and realize this was just a dream," Safina said. "Obviously, this has been the biggest success in my career and I still can't believe I actually won Berlin and beat three Top 10 players in one week. Right now I'm the happiest person on Earth. I don't have much time to enjoy it though because tomorrow morning I leave for Rome, where everything starts again."
Dementieva had her own strong run to the final, upsetting Top 4 seeds Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic en route - just the second player so far this season to achieve the Serbian double, after Sharapova did it at the Australian - and having won her last four finals, it looked as though she was favored for a victory. But this time, unlucky No.13 beat out lucky No.7 when the chips were down.
"I knew it would be a tough match," Dementieva said. "She's in great shape and she beat some really good players already this week. She also likes to play on clay - she practices in Spain - so I knew it would be a tough one."
While Safina and Dementieva single-handedly ousted four of the Top 5 seeds - Henin, Ivanovic, Jankovic, Williams - the other big surprise of the week belonged to No.15 seed Alona Bondarenko, who ousted No.3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. More notable upsets included No.6 seed Anna Chakvetadze's loss to Azarenka and No.8 seed Marion Bartoli's loss to No.10 seed Agnes Szavay.
The world's top team prevailed in the doubles final earlier in the day, as Cara Black and Liezel Huber defeated Nuria Llagostera Vives and María José Martínez Sánchez in a match tie-break, 36 62 102. It was Black and Huber's third Tour doubles title of the year, having already won titles at Antwerp and Dubai. Black and Huber, co-No.1s in the doubles rankings, now have 15 titles together.