Dinara Safina vs. Olivia Rogowska
Today on Yahoo, Dinara Safina was the number one “top search” of the day. This proves that Safina has broken into the mainstream press so that millions of people are asking, “Who is this Dinara Safina? And why should we care?”
We care because the continued debate over if Safina deserves to be number one almost went nuclear after her close call win over wildcard Australian Olivia Rogowska 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4 that had a combined unforced error count of 113.
Safina battled herself, her coach, and her service toss in a match that had her again wearing that bug-eyed terror gaze she wore so well in her French Open loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Fortunately for Safina, Rogowska, despite her sometimes steady play, really didn’t have a killer shot to put Safina out of her misery. Or those that watched the entire two and half hour dirge of a match. After the match, Rogowska summed it perfectly when she said, “I’m disappointed I lost, and I didn’t expect to say that after playing the number one player in the world. It’s a bit weird.”
Safina later told the crowd if they learned anything from the match it would be to make sure they keep their eyes on the ball when they serve.
What is going on with her? Is the pressure of being number one and all the talk of not winning a Slam yet causing her to meltdown? Could she suffer the same fate as Ana Ivanovic (see below)?
Maria Sharapova vs. Tsvetana Pironkova
The only drama in tonight’s return by Maria Sharapova to the Open was her silver and blue dress designed to match her Tiffany earrings. Not much to say her except Sharapova’s play was just as sharp as her dress tonight. Sharapova won easily 6-3, 6-0 in a match where she only served four double faults and was firing off winners from both wings.
If form holds, she’ll have to play Elena Dementieva in the third round and that could now actually be the match of the first week as Sharapova is looking better all the time. Of course so is Dementieva.
Ana Ivanovic vs. Kateryna Bondarenko
Another error filled but entertaining if not sometimes exasperating match was Ana Ivanovic vs. Kateryna Bondarenko. Bondarenko was 2-0 against Ivanovic going in but Ivanovic played well and jumped out to a 6-2, 3-1 lead.
Then Bondarenko, hampered by a leg strain, found her groove while Ivanovic got tight. Bondarenko stormed back and won the second set 6-3.
The third set was textbook of the current women’s game. Bondarenko jumped out to a 4-0 lead after breaking Ivanovic twice and when Ivanovic failed to convert on three break points. Then, to make it fun for the fans, Bondarenko lost serve twice and then had to serve to stay in it at 4-5 which she did.
Nerves and blown opportunities forced it into a tiebreak. Ivanovic double faulted the first point but then seemed to get it together to jump out to a 5-3 lead. Bondarenko tied it up at 5-5 but then Ivanovic got to a match point at 6-5 on her serve but dumped a forehand. Bondarenko then got to a match point on her serve at 7-6, but double faulted. Finally Bondarenko won the last two points on another Ivanovic forehand miss.
Ivanovic should have won the match, but again it’s her brain, and not her shot selection, that is forcing her slide down the rankings.
To close, it’s probably best to let Safina’s kindred Russian soul – Svetlana Kusnetsova – describe Safina’s play today.
“Dinara, she maybe has a real bad something missing in her game. I maybe have something missing in mine. That is the life, in and out of the court, for everybody.”
And so it is.