BOTTOM LINE: – Win-loss record until start of Berlin: 11-10
Record since (and including) Berlin: 44-10
Whatever the magic spell that swept over Dinara Safina in Berlin, it produced one of the most astonishing overnight transformations in recent tennis memory.
Until that event, Safina had endured a miserable early 2008, at one point suffering through a four-match losing streak that spanned six weeks. But starting in Berlin, Safina won 41 of 46 matches, slowing down only at the very end of the season. The run included titles at Berlin, Los Angeles, and Tokyo; her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros; and a 15-match winning streak that ended in the Olympic final.
Safina’s stellar summer was even more remarkable given that she had never before won more than one title in a season. What changed?
“If I would know why, I guess I would do it much earlier, and not at the age of 22,” Safina said recently when asked about the reversal of fortune she experienced in Berlin. “I guess it was time. Just everything clicked that week.”
She credits coach Zeljko Krajan with giving her self-belief and has promised him a Mercedes if she achieves her next goal: winning a Grand Slam title.
Her emergence as one of the game’s top players has brought a whole new level of pressure, though Safina has so far not seemed fazed. After all, as the younger sister of Marat Safin, she has long been subjected to scrutiny and high expectations.
Physically, however, the demands of all that extra winning seemed to catch up with Safina towards the end of the year. She won just seven matches after the U.S. Open, and failed to take a single set at the season-ending championships in Doha, where she finished 0-3. Adjusting her schedule according to her new stature in the game will be key to sustaining her level next year.
To-do list: Don’t put the genie back in the bottle