Just a day after former World No. 1 Dinara Safina gave an interview to ESPN.com saying that, although at the moment she wasn’t sure if she would return to the pro tour, she had no official plans to retire, Safina’s brother Marat Safin told a Russian sports agency that his younger sister was indeed retiring from the sport due to her ongoing issues with a back injury that she’s struggled with for the past two years.
While tennis fans on Twitter and elsewhere wondered aloud what this all could mean for Safina, many official media outlets, including AP Moscow, BBC.com, Christian Science Monitor, and oddly ESPN.com, took Safin at his word and ran the “news” of Safina’s retirement as fact with other tennis journalists using Twitter to muse openly about the end of Safina’s tennis career.
But apparently no one had bothered to ask Safina herself about her brother’s statement. Late in the afternoon, Safina herself took to Twitter to basically restate what she had said in her earlier interview saying, “My sweet tweeties, I didn’t make yet any official announcement… Give my please some time and I’ll let u all know… Take care of my back, on Tuesday i’m having a treatment… Ones I’ll decide something U’ll be the first to know I promise!! Love u all”
Safina’s dismissal of her brother’s comments had many outlets backtracking or “updating” their stories, even though damage to their credibility had already been done. Media outlets are prone to “pull the trigger” so to speak when major news appears to break even when a little fact checking and patience seem warranted. Considering Marat had said similar things before about his sister’s back condition, I was surprised that so many in the media were eager to jump on the story without waiting to hear from the woman herself.
But maybe I shouldn’t be.
Safina in her earlier interview admitted that she overplayed during the end of 2009 to secure the No. 1 ranking which exacerbated her injury even further. I’m sure that decision by Safina to try and remain No. 1 at that time was her only way to respond to the withering criticism and derision she endured by many, including in the media, who didn’t view her as a legit No. 1 because she had not won a Major title. Safina’s attempt at a comeback this year saw her lose in grim 6-0, 6-0 fashion to Kim Clijsters in Melbourne but despite some nice wins at Indian Wells, her early loss in Madrid to Julia Goerges followed by her extended absence this summer apparently confirmed for many that Safina was done and today’s “confirmation” by her brother was good enough for the press to publish her tennis obituary.
Marat Safin can say what he wants, but it’s the media’s job to decide whether what he says is actually news or not. Today’s rush to publish his statement as a fact suggests that the media is ready to move on from Dinara Safina’s tennis career even when she herself may not be. Who knows if or when Safina will return, if ever, to a sport that has brought her considerable monetary success, but at the same time subjected her not only to emotional torment by being in the public eye, but also physical duress that she may never find a cure for. All I can hope for is that whatever Safina decides to do with her life, on or off the court, that she gets to do so on her terms and not based on the verbal whims of her brother or the printed ones of the media.
She deserves that.