Safin's sister in tears as defeat proves too much

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Dinara Safin was inconsolable after losing her opening match at the Nasdaq Open here. The 18-year-old Russian's sobbing was unabated as she sat on her racket bag waiting for transportation back to her hotel in Miami. Her mother, Raouza, who is also Safina's coach, was unable to reassure her.

Dinara Safin was inconsolable after losing her opening match at the Nasdaq Open here. The 18-year-old Russian's sobbing was unabated as she sat on her racket bag waiting for transportation back to her hotel in Miami. Her mother, Raouza, who is also Safina's coach, was unable to reassure her.

The 23rd-seeded Safina may have been distraught simply because she had been beaten, 6-1 6-2, by Tatiana Golovin, a French wild card against whom she had not previously crossed rackets. Perhaps the frustration of seeing her best shots blown out of bounds by the wind contributed to her distress. Or maybe she was troubled by a personal problem. Whatever the reason, Safina was not a happy Muscovite.

She arrived in South Florida as one of nine Russians in the women's singles draw, and a strong domestic rivalry is one of the reasons why she and her countrywomen are flooding the sport, each trying to outdo the others. As one observer remarked in reference to the tearful Safina: "It would be nice to think that Britain's women players cared that much about winning and losing." The Russian men on the international tennis scene are not so numerous, but they have always been noted for speaking their mind. Safina's older brother, Marat Safin, is a case in point.

A former world No 1, the tall, powerful Safin is best known for whipping Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final and breaking his racket at the drop of a point. Injuries forced him out of the top 50 last year, but the 24-year-old advanced to the Australian Open final in January and is No 2 in the ATP Champions Race, the measure of current form.

Safin, like his sister, is not thrilled about everything around him and has been critical here about the television coverage and the way the ATP Tour promotes the sport.

His latest outburst was triggered when he was asked by a reporter why Juan-Carlos Ferrero, of Spain, the French Open champion absent from the Nasdaq Open because of chicken pox, is not popular in the United States. Contending that Americans were only interested in their own players and that "nobody really cares about the Spanish players", Safin blamed the level of television coverage.

"Nobody shows tennis," Safin said, "and if they show it, there are some matches that nobody cares about. So who is going to watch? People don't know who is who and they don't really care because it's not interesting... and because you cannot even see them on TV. They don't promote [tennis] very well. They don't get enough hours on TV because it's not entertaining any more."

Safin, it may be remembered, was fined a few years ago for not giving his best effort at the Australian Open. One season he played on when not fully recovered from injury, arguing that if he stopped he would miss out on a year-end bonus. He is a quirky individual with enormous talent, and that makes him one of the sport's cherished characters.

Speaking of characters, Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champion, who has been unable to return to take another bow because of injuries, was pessimistic after shoulder problems caused him to retire from his second-round match against Rafael Nadaln after the Spaniard won the opening set 6-4.

"Maybe the nerve is jammed," Ivanisevic said. "In the first match [against Nicolas Escudé] it was fine, but now I have a heavy arm. It was bothering me like this before my surgery. It's pretty disappointing."

It was also disappointing for Tim Henman, a first-round loser on Friday night to world number 64 Juergen Melzer 7-6 2-6 7-6. Seventh seed Henman, runner-up to Roger Federer in Indian Wells last week, struggled in difficult hot and blustery conditions but served for the match at 6-5 in the third set before losing in a tie-break.

Comments