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Another Russian Takes Center Stage in Germany: Dinara Safina Wins First Tier I Title

The Qatar Telecom German Open final featured two Russians, the seventh seed, Elena Dementieva and the thirteenth seed, Dinara Safina. At age 22, this was Safina’s first Tier I tournament final despite being an eight-year veteran of the ladies’ circuit. Dinara took full advantage winning it 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

At the beginning of the first set, neither player held her serve. Disgruntled with her poor play, in a move reminiscent of her brother Marat, Safina knocked out a racket. With on court coaching permitted, Safina opted to get advice on her performance, but continued to have some difficulties. With the serve, habitually the most troublesome part of Dementieva’s game holding up nicely, with at 71% first serve, and with sloppy play from her opponent, Elena prevailed in the set 6-3.

The second set started out similarly to the first with exchanges of breaks. But, as the set progressed, with some intelligently placed drop shots and a dramatic improvement in her first serve at 70%, Safina took control of the rallies. Dinara also reverted her ratio of winners to unforced errors with the former outnumbering the latter. Although well known for her defensive play and mobility, Elena found it hard to be effective when pinned far behind the baseline. As a result, Safina leveled the match at one set all.

In the first game of the third set, Safina had a double break chance, but Dementieva swept that off. Yet, from then on, Safina had the upper hand. In the third game, Dinara got the break and consolidated to take a 3-1 lead. Safina further distanced herself from her rival by going up a double break. As the errors pilled up and Dementieva’s second serve became ineffective, Safina served out the set and won the match 6-2.

Ranked 17th in the world, this represented Safina’s most successful week as a singles player. In the third round, Dinara defeated world number one, Justine Henin 6-1 in the third set. She then dispatched Serena Williams in a third set tiebreaker, putting an end to Serena’s 17 match winning streak. For her part, Dementieva eliminated two Serbs on her way to the finals, Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals and Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals, the defending champion. To date, Ivanovic has never beaten Dementieva.

The women’s tour moves on to Rome where Maria Sharapova will make her debut on European clay. Henin withdrew from the tournament stating fatigue; Justine will be fined by the WTA for this eleventh hour move. Germany was Henin’s first tournament since the Sony Ericsson Open; she has been hampered by a knee problem. With Henin battling injury, the field looks wide open as to who might win this year’s French Open.

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