Sunday, September 6, 2009

Safina upset at U.S. Open

Top seed Dinara Safina--whose match against Petra Kvitova was moved to Louis Armstrong Stadium in order to keep the tournament from going until daybreak--walked out of the tunnel looking anything but confident. The first set was an error-filled mess from both players, but Kvitova was at least hitting some winners. In the second set, Safina went down 0-2, 15-40, but Kvitova became even more careless, and Safina was able to take advantage and become dominant.

In the third set, Kvitova broke early, setting up the Thrill Ride scenario to which we have all become accustomed. Safina allowed Kvitova to dictate the points; Kvitova, however, continued to make too many errors to completely dominate, despite the fact that she was hitting five times as many winners as her opponent.

Kvitova served for the match at 5-4, and was broken, and who could be surprised? After all, this was Dinara Safina, Thrill Ride, on the other side of the net. Serving at 5-6, Kvitova alternated great shots with errors, just as she had throughout the match. Facing a match point when Safina hit a successful lob, Kvitova went for the line, and hit a daring and beautiful shot, but followed it up with a double fault. She then hit a winning serve out wide at 82 mph., but followed that with an unforced error. Then she had to hit a second serve, yet she managed to stave off a third match point. Keeping herself steady, Kvitova held, and forced a tiebreak, and won the match, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6.

I was suprised. Once Safina got behind in the third, I assumed she would pull one of her now-famous comebacks. She could have, and she should have. But despite Kvitova's up-and-down play, the unseeded player remained aggressive throughout the match, and that made all the difference. She made 59 unforced errors, but she also hit 47 winners and won 70% of her 23 net approaches. Kvitova made points happen, and Safina didn't.

Kvitova's ranking has fallen 32 points this season, and she is now number 72 in the world. That will change the week after next.


Paul Ball said...

Hi Diane,
Great blog - very entertaining & interesting.
Apparently Dinara Safina will still be number 1 in the world even if Serena Williams wins the US Open. I was wondering - what would have to happen in the tournaments which follow for this to be reversed before the current WTA season ends? Actually, when DOES the WTA year officially end? Is the Sony end-of-season race/tournament a ranking event?
Basically... do you think Safina will end the year as number 1 in the world? I actually hope so, as she is far more consistent & likeable than Serena, and I find all the stick she's getting about this to be a little unfair.

Diane said...

Thanks for your kind words, Paul.

Yes, the Sony Ericsson Championships count as the last official tournament of the season, and ranking points are awarded.

Right now, Safina has more considerably more ranking points than Serena. Safina made it to the semifinals last year, so she has not defended those ranking points; players must defend their points from the year before.

Some people think that the ratio between points given to the winner of a major and to the finalist should be greater so that the championship would have greater value. Others think that the winners' points should be significantly increased, regardless, so that a player who has not won a major would have a very hard time becoming number 1 in the world.

Serena has not won a non-major event since Charleston in 2008. Should she win some big tournaments, things would be different, but she appears to put most of her focus on the majors now, which is, of course, her choice.

Perspective is important here. Historically, the majors--though very important--did not hold the esteem they do now. Players used to routinely skip them for one reason or another (that is a another story), and therefore, they were not counting their major trophies the way players do today.

Though I understand the outrage about Safina, I happen to lean more toward your way of thinking, partly because I consider this obsession with majors a fairly new phenomenon, and I'm still not really used to it. However, if the current trend continues, being number 1 may no longer have the value it used to have.

Now that Safina has failed to defend her U.S. Open points, the door is opened a bit for Serena to take over the number 1 ranking by the end of the year. If Serena wins the U.S. Open, her chance of going to number 1 is very big. Also, performances at the SEC may mean a lot, and I think Serena is entered in the Tokyo tournament, where she may become inspired.

Anonymous said...

So many Serena haters! mad because she's not the "great white hope" Go Serena, take the title, make it an even dozen!

Paul Ball said...

Many thanks Diane, great perspective & info - cheers.
It's a shame Serena only seems to concentrate on the big events. As you say - her choice, of course, but in that case she should stop complaining about not being rated number 1 in the world. After all, it's not "Who's done the best in the 4 big tournaments" ! Her perceived disrespect towards the smaller events is not healthy for the game, in my opinion :)

Diane said...

Anon, it would be a good idea for you to find out why someone does not care for a particular player and not assume it is because her skin color is not the "right" one. Nowhere in Paul's post is there any hint of racism. And while I realize that much racism (and sexism, etc.) is unconscious, sometimes it is also just plain absent.

Serena is a controversial personality. She has styled herself that way. I'm fine with that, and--if you read this blog--you know that I cut Serena slack in cases when others do not.

Personally, I don't care if the next big thing is Caucasian or American. I'm not into that type of thing. If Stephens or Lertcheewakarn or Robson break through, I'll be thrilled for them.

I do not tolerate racism, sexism, gay-hating, etc. on this blog, but I also don't want to see guests here accused of bigotry without any evidence.

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