SUNDAY, MAY 10 – Dinara Safina backed her status as the tour’s top ranked player in a huge way in Rome, besting Venus Williams in a classic three-setter and then on Saturday, capturing her first title this season over the same woman who had taken her down the week prior, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 6-2.
It was terrific win for the ultra aggressive and resourceful Safina, who showed No. 2 Serena Williams that she’s more than capable of an impressive stretch on dirt. Now Safina can go into Madrid and into Roland Garros, where she reached the final last year, as a more legitimate No. 1 and with the confidence that she can finally win her first Slam
“I wouldn’t say that I felt under pressure,” the 23-year-old. “I’m trying to focus on myself and I’m not thinking that much about my ranking and how I’m playing and all this. I’m just trying to go out on court and do my best so after winning Rome, winning finals and semifinals gave me more confidence and I’m feeling really great before the Slam.”
As Rome ended, so did Estoril, where Belgian teen Yanina Wickmayer won her first WTA Tour title over Ekaterina Makarova 7-5, 6-2, But at the same time, the new combined event in Madrid in the much talked about magic Box began, with seed quarterfinal match-ups being Safina vs. Kuznetsova, Jelena Jankovic vs. Nadia Petrova, Victoria Azarenka vs. Elena Dementieva and Venus Williams vs. Serena Williams.
But a shadow fell over the proceeding when it was reported that Richard Gasquet tested positive for cocaine at Miami last month. The up and down incredible talent from France is facing a two year suspension, but says that he had a hair sample tested by an independent lab “which showed no trace of cocaine.” However, the independent hair sample may not do him much good as it did no good for Martina Hingis, who was suspended for two years for testing positive for cocaine but decided to retire anyway. No doubt the 23-year-old Gasquet will be fighting an uphill battle to clear his name.
A bunch of lower women’s seed fell in singles action at Madrid on Sundays with Samantha Stosur upsetting the fading Agnieszka Radwanska 7-6(4), 6-1, Agnes Szavay beating Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2, Elena Vesnina defeating the horribly slumping Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-1, Vera Dushevina beating Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-4 and Lucie Safarova advancing when Kaia Kanepi retired with a hip injury. Jankovic won, as did Li Na, who beat the struggling Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro. Alona Bondarenko, Petra Kvitova and Anne Keothavong were also winners.
The men began play, too, but not before three events closed with Albert Montanes besting James Blake 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-0 in Estoril, Novak Djokovic winning his family’s event in Belgrade by overcoming Poland’s Lukasz Kubot 6-3, 7-6(0) and Tomas Berdych taking a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5) victory over Mikhail Youzhny in Munich.
Blake had defeated Nikolay Davydenko 6-7 (3), 7-6 (2), 6-3 in the semis Sunday just hours before the final and was appearing in his first Euro clay court final. “Tennis is a game of inches,” said Blake. “If he missed the line by one inch on one of the match points, I would have won. It didn’t and he gained confidence. It happens to every player. Today, it happened to me in the final. With the exception of one bad set I played some high-level tennis all week….At least now I won my last four matches and put myself in a position to win a clay-court tournament.”
In Madrid, Tommy Robredo scored a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Nicolas Kiefer and Juan Carlos Ferrero took down Igor Kunitsyn 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.