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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » 'Smack me!' says Safina after Aussie escape

'Smack me!' says Safina after Aussie escape

January 25, 2009 18:36 IST

World number three Dinara Safina saved two match points and won the last five games in an extraordinary comeback to beat French teenager Alize Cornet 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday.

Cornet was on the verge of a huge upset when she recovered from losing the first to lead 5-2 in the third until her game suddenly fell apart under a ferocious attack from the Russian.

Cornet twice failed to serve out the match and squandered two match points in the 10th game as Safina abandoned her cautious approach and started playing more aggressively.

"I played like a junior today, it's just lucky that I went through," Safina told reporters. "I guess she was just not ready to beat me. I was just hanging in there.

"There was nothing special that I did...on match point I hit a winner but it's her unforced errors (that proved decisive)."

Cornet, who was aiming to reach her first grand slam quarter-final, came agonisingly close to clinching victory on her second match point when a forehand down the line was called out.

She challenged the call but the replay confirmed she had missed the line by a few centimetres.

"The ball was really close," she said. "I really wish it was in. This (match result) was really a tough, tough loss. I'm going to think about it for a long time.

"I really tried my best, so I have nothing to regret."

Safina has long lived in the shadow of her brother Marat Safin, who saved a match point in the semi-finals against Roger Federer before winning the Australian Open men's title in 2005.

Safina, 22, is yet to win a grand slam title but has inherited the same self-deprecating humour as her older sibling, berating herself for allowing Cornet to get so close.


"I'm just a little bit disappointed about this match, playing against this girl and allowing myself to do these kind of mistakes," she said.

"The game is there. I just don't know what's going on through my mind. Somebody (should) smack me so hard in my head that something shakes finally and I put the cables together."

Safina's dark moods and irreverent approach to tennis are also shared by her coach Zeljko Krajan, who deploys some unusual psychological tricks to get the best out her.

"(He told me) if I continue playing like this, he may as well just go home," she said. "I keep telling myself to hit the ball but my arm just doesn't want to, because my mind is just stupid."

Despite failing to reach her own expectations, Safina has not given up hope of winning the title in Melbourne.

She plays unseeded Australian Jelena Dokic in the quarter-finals on Tuesday and there are just two other players in the top six still left in the women's draw.

"For me it's the first time I'm actually in the quarters. I've never had great results here, so I'm pleased," she said.

"Maybe...this is the way I play in Australia, I don't know, but on the other hand, it's just the first grand slam and nobody's playing great."

Julian Linden
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