Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Shadow departs Melbourne, replaced by the real Safina

Throughout this Australian Open, Dinara Safina has said she felt it wasn't she, but her shadow, who was playing--that she had so much more game inside, but it wasn't coming out. It came out today, as Safina defeated Vera Zvonareva in straight sets to get to the final. Zvonareva had won their last three matches, but today, Safina dominated her countrywoman with good serving and relentless defense.

It was the best Safina has played since she arrived in Melbourne. Extending herself in almost every game, she wound up with twice as many errors--and twice as many winners--as her opponent. Gone was the bumbling, self-critical Safina. Instead, we saw a calm, steady and confident player who controlled the match almost from the beginning.

It was a high-quality match. Zvonareva played well, but always seemed to be a step behind her opponent. We got to see the famous Zvonareva temper only once, when she got into it with umpire Lynn Welch over a call, but she recovered quickly.

One thing Safina did in Melbourne was make good on her promise that she would not go to pieces again in a big semifinal like she did at the U.S. Open against Serena Williams. Her reward? She gets to play Williams in the final. Thrill Ride, indeed.

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