On the Baseline Tennis News’ 2008 Players to Watch Series
December 12, 2007
January is the time when the tennis slate is wiped clean to make room for a brand new season. With 2008 just weeks away, the usual onslaught of player predictions have started pouring in. There’s no better way to take a stab at picking future winners than taking a look back at past performance. But, as we know, tennis can often be as fickle as the stock market.
For some players, 2007 was a year plagued by ups and downs, while others spent the year battling chronic injuries more often than their opponents. For Dinara Safina, the 21 year old Russian and younger sister of former No. 1 player Marat Safin, 2007 turned out to be a confidence builder as well as her breakout year in doubles.
She kicked off 2007 winning her fifth career singles title at the Mondial Australian Women’s Hardcourts on the Gold Coast. Her sixth career doubles title also came at the Gold Coast (with Srebotnik). Safina was the only player in 2007 to sweep both singles and doubles at the same event.
One of Safina’s goals for 2007 was to play more tournaments as a confidence builder. The Pilot Pen was on the top of her list, making it to the quarterfinals. Despite her success, Safina cautioned, “It doesn’t matter who I’m going to play—just when you think this is going to be easy, it’s a tough match.” The greatest boost to her confidence came just a few weeks later at the US Open, where she won her first grand slam title in doubles with a brand new doubles partner, Nathalie Dechy.
After her US Open victory, Safina reflected on her performance. “I think this year I proved that, okay, I didn’t say that I have to beat Justine, but at least to maybe show more from my part. Okay, like now in doubles, I’m going to concentrate. I think that showed.”
In October, Safina continued her concentration and momentum into the Kremlin Cup by making it through to the semis, ultimately losing to fellow Russian, Elena Dementieva, who went on to win the tournament.
Since the US Open, Safina has been coached by Heinz Guenthardt, former coach of Steffi Graf, and she still takes pointers from her mother, Raouza, who often travels with her to tournaments.
As she heads into 2008, Safina holds the No. 15 spot in singles and No. 14 in doubles. Overall, Safina has completed her third consecutive season in the top 20. Earlier in the summer, she cracked the top 10 briefly, holding onto the No. 9 spot.
Safina is a powerful player with plenty of room to grow her game. Her singles record of 43-22 and doubles record of 28-10 makes her a dual threat. Whether her success comes from singles or doubles, her game is definitely on the upswing.