Dinara Safina’s retirement against Jelena Jankovic and subsequent withdrawal from the year ending championships was Wednesday’s big news out of Doha. She tapped out in the third game of the match, leaving the court after a series of gut wrenching sobs no doubt caused by both pain and disappointment. In what was supposed to be the final stage of battle for the year end No. 1, Dinara Safina shot herself in the foot.
Safina explained afterwards that one of the discs in her lower back was “starting to fracture,” and that the doctors recommend at least 6 weeks of rest and a long rehabilitation process. She could miss the Australian Open: “When I speak with the doctors, it doesn’t sound so good,” Safina said. “It is possible I may have to skip it.” (via Fox Sports)
Uh, where were these doctors a few weeks ago?
She’s apparently been suffering from this injury for about three months and she says she had hoped a short break between the US Open and Tokyo would be enough to recuperate. But from her comment below, it sounds like the desire to end the year at No. 1 may have pushed her too far:
“I’ve been playing on the pain, on anti-inflammatory, on everything, already for about three months,” Safina said. “It was one of the reasons I had to take a break after the US Open. It was advised. But I thought like, as I was chasing this No. 1 ranking, so I was fighting with my body. God knows, maybe I had to stop after US Open.
“But for two tournaments, Beijing and Tokyo, it was quiet, it didn’t bother me that much. So I was still hoping. Then my body just gave up. I did everything possible to play here, but I could not handle any more this pain.” (via The Times)
I applaud Dinara for her determination and grit – however ill-advised – and hope that she uses this enforced break to rehab both her mind and body. For all the smack talk about her mental failings, Safina can be extremely stoic – too stoic. Call her the anti-J.J.: she hardly ever calls the trainer, never complains of injury after a loss and very rarely retires from a match (anybody remember the last time?) Even the smack-talking Serena Williams – who with her win over her sister today has secured the No. 1 ranking – mentioned this, saying: “Dinara must be hurt because she never gives up – it would have been a really great tournament had she been able to get through to the final.”
It would have been “really great,” indeed, but unfortunately Safina safizzled and Serena won the war by default. Something tells me these two women will be fighting very different battles next season, and not against one another. Oh well, it was kinda, sorta fun while it lasted.
Vera Zvonareva will sub in for Dinara. Considering that chaos reigns in the White Group, I see no reason why she couldn’t make it to the semis and even beyond.
In other Doha Day 2 news, Caroline Wozniacki battled through her own injury problems (her upper leg was wrapped tighter than a tourniquet) to beat Victoria Azarenka in an impressive come-from-behind victory: 1-6, 6-4, 7-5. This was an entertaining match for many reasons: the 14-deuce fifth game in the second set, the match point that Wozniacki saved, and Azarenka’s ball-smacking, racquet smashing breakdown towards the end of the match, which earned her a point penalty that cost her a crucial service game. Wozniacki seems to be supremely well-adjusted and capable of dealing with the pressure of the moment. The same thing can’t be said of Vika, who I continue to root for despite her banshee screech and tantrums. Maybe it’s the headband.
Thursday’s line up in Doha:
1. Vera Zvonareva vs. Caroline Wozniacki
2. Serena Williams vs. Elena Dementieva
3. Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Venus Williams
Click here for the TV schedule.