May 9, 2009

Revenge Is Sweet

Less than a week ago world #1 Dinara Safina was playing in her first championship match since she claimed the top spot from Serena Williams. It was a huge opportunity to prove her worth, since Serena, having won both the U.S. and Australian Opens while Safina had lost the only two Grand Slam finals she'd ever played. What better opportunity than to win the first tournament she played with the ranking?

It must have been frustrating when she lost in straight sets to Svetlana Kuznetsova, who hadn't won a title since New Haven in 2007.

This week, however, Dinara was out for revenge.

In Rome she came close to early elimination several times. Jie Zheng was two points away from a third round upset when Dinara rallied back and unseeded María José Martínez Sánchez was up 6-4, 3-1 in the quarters before losing the next eleven games.

It seemed only fitting that Safina should meet Kuznetsova again in the finals. The fourth best Russian had beaten Daniela Hantuchova, Flavia Pennetta, Jelena Jankovic and red-hot Victoria Azarenka consecutively for her second straight final.

But Dinara was too much to handle two weeks in a row. She got more than seventy percent of her first serves in and absolutely dominated her opponent, winning 71% of Svetlanta's second attempts. Ninety minutes after they took the court, Dinara walked away with her first trophy of the year. And with Serena losing in her first match of the tournament, Dinara may have gotten revenge against two competitors.

Meanwhile in Portugal, James Blake continued his quest to make his first final in over a year -- in fact, like Kuznetsova, his last title came in Connecticut nearly two years ago. Maybe he didn't want Svetlana to get all the glory.

At the semifinals of the Estoril Open, he took on Nikolay Davydenko, whom he has beaten in their six previous meetings. Blake squandered several breaks in the first set, eventually falling in a tiebreak, but held a 4-2 advantage in the second when play was called for darkness. (Come on, kids! It's 2009 -- get some lights!)

Anyway, here's hoping he comes back tomorrow. If he wins, he'll take on seventh seed Albert Montanes, who ousted Gilles Simon in the quarters -- and, fingers crossed, could win his first ever title on clay!

I'll be cheering for him all the way!

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