Dinara Safina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in Saturday’s final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. Her compatriot prevailed over her last weekend in the Stuttgart final, but Safina showed no signs of giving in this time – taking Kuznetsova out 6-3, 6-2 in about 90 minutes. Dinara won with a steady attacking game, making 16 unforced errors to Kuzy’s 30. (Per Svetlana: “It was a little bit like Christmas today: I was giving too many presents.”)
This is great news for Safina fans – she’s finally won a final this year (out of four appearances), she took out a Williams sister (though not the one who calls herself “the real No. 1″), and is building confidence:
“When other players step on the court against me now that I am No.1, they have nothing to lose. It’s the same thing I did last year. Like when I played Henin in Berlin last year, I didn’t care. I was swinging and everything was landing in. I’m enjoying the challenge of proving I’m the best player.“
Nice to hear, considering all the challenges Dinara faced during her week in Rome. She played three consecutive three set matches – squeaking past Zheng Jie in the third round, being S&Ved almost to death by Spaniard María José Martínez Sánchez in the quarters, and “shitting her pants” against Venus Williams in the semis (per her coach, Zeljko Krajan, during a changeover.)
Speaking of her coach, it was painful watching him harangue Safina during her matches. He would roll his eyes and call her a wuss while she sat chugging water with a thousand-yard stare on her face. Even after she breezed through the first set of Saturday’s final, Zeljko moaned that she was being too passive.
While I wasn’t sure if I was watching a coaching session or a Lifetime drama, Zeljko’s tough-love/tough-titties approach did the trick for Dinara. She ran to the sidelines to hug him after winning match point and mentioned him during the trophy ceremony:
“He almost walked out on my match against Zheng. . .I want to ask him now if he still wants to be my coach,” she said, giggling like she was asking him to a Sadie Hawkins dance.
Dinara’s entered in this week’s Madrid Open.