Both Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina fall into the category of long-suffering tennis players. Dinara barely played, let alone won, a match last season, and has continued to lose early at tournaments in 2011. Yes, a serious back injury was majorly to blame for her long slide from No. 1 to No. 108 in the rankings, but the pain of high expectations and the scrutiny of being a Major-less No. 1 also took their toll on the temperamental Russian. When she was forced to take a long break last season it came as bittersweet relief – apparently to her as much as anyone. She admitted to the press on Monday that she even considered retiring. Via The Desert Sun:
“After Australia, there was a moment I came to Moscow for the Fed Cup,” Safina said. “I said to my mom, ‘I’m retiring.’ I said, ‘I don’t want any more of this.’” “It was tough, because I love the sport. And once you’re not enjoying it, you struggle,” she said. “Like when you have some bad moments, like your head’s falling down. But when you’re believing, you’re like, ‘OK, it’s not my day. I’m just going to keep working hard.”
Safina needed to believe this evening – hard – as she took out No. 4 seed Sam Stosur 7-6(2), 6-4. I’d seen Safina struggle with her serve and her coach on the practice courts on Sunday, and she hit 16 double faults in Monday night’s match. The key to the win, Dinara said, was not to let her serve get her down (via BNPParibasOpen.com):
“I still managed to win a match, so that’s a good thing,” said Safina. “Apart from that, I still stayed tough mentally. I said, okay, it’s not my day on serving, but it might be on the baseline.”
Her reward for her tenacity? A quarterfinal date with Maria Sharapova, who is still working on the post-surgery comeback she started two years ago at Indian Wells. Seeded No. 16 and playing like it, she needed three hours to get past Anabel Medina Garrigues on Saturday. I thought she was in for it today in her third round vs. the ball walloping Aravane Rezai, but she walloped right back: 6-2, 6-2.
I’m really looking forward to this quarterfinal, even though I know there will be way too much double faulting and wailing. Heck, a fan can suffer a little after what they’ve been through on the tennis court.
Speaking of long suffering comebacks, Juan Martin del Potro continues to impress this spring. After winning his first title since the 2009 US Open a couple weeks ago in Del Rey beach, Juan Martin’s continued his winning ways in Indian Wells beating Radek Stepanek in the first round, defending champ Ivan Ljubicic in the second and putting young gun Alexandr Dolgopolov in his place today with a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory. He’ll face Philipp Kohlschreiber next, who beat Robin Soderling 7-6(8), 6-4. (Robin complained afterward about a foot injury and a fever, tsk, tsk.)
Upset, anyone? The sport of doubles must really have it bad – Federer and Wawrinka take the court vs. Benneteau and Gasquet at a televised Masters event and even the TENNIS CHANNEL won’t cover it. Yes, I know it has something to do with legalese and scheduling or whatever lame mumbo jumbo – but can’t the broadcasters plan ahead a little bit? Rafa won the doubles here last year (and both he and Nole are still alive in the doubles with their partners) so it’s not exactly a surprise that the Big Dogs enjoy their dubs at Indian Wells. This reminds me of my other pet peeve – the lack of interpreters during on court coaching sessions. Isn’t on-court coaching billed by its supporters as “good television.” Then find someone who can speak some Polish when you know Wozniacki is playing. Sheesh.