Dinara Safina put a stamp on her world No. 1 ranking on Saturday, coming out on top of a field that included eight of the Top 10 ranked players (including both Williams sisters) and six current or former No. 1 players to lift the trophy at the Italian Open in Rome, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Safina defeated fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2, the same player who beat her a week earlier in the final at Stuttgart.
“I think yesterday’s match really helped me to push myself to play my best,” Safina said, referencing her win over Venus Williams. “Really, really I think I played one of my best matches yesterday. Against Kuzy, I had in my head that I had lost three finals this year. I didn’t want to have a reputation that I’m losing finals.”
The field also included former No. 1s Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Amelie Mauresmo and the Williams sisters.
Safina came out aggressively taking charge of rallies, and while many games went to deuce, the world No. 1 was the better on the big points.
“I couldn’t find the solution today,” Kuznetsova said. “Dinara was playing good tennis and fought her way to the final unbelievably. I couldn’t play my game at all. I made too many unforced errors. It was a little bit like Christmas today: I was giving too many presents.”
Safina is now 1-3 in finals in 2009 after runner-up efforts at Sydney (to Elena Dementieva), the Australian Open (to Serena Williams) and Stuttgart (Kuznetsova).
“When other players step on the court against me now that I am No. 1, they have nothing to lose,” Safina said of defending her No. 1 perch. “It’s the same thing I did last year. Like when I played [Justine] Henin in Berlin last year, I didn’t care. I was swinging and everything was landing in. I’m enjoying the challenge of proving I’m the best player.”
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