Kuzy Strong, Safina Not in French Open Finale
by Staff | June 6th, 2009, 2:46 pm

The third time wasn’t the charm for world No. 1 Dinara Safina, who choked her way to an 0-3 career record in Slam finals on Saturday at the French Open, losing 6-4, 6-2 to fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Safina, who was dominating en route to the final, again let the occasion get the best of her.

“It was the pressure I put on myself because I really wanted to win,” Safina said. “I just didn’t handle it. I was a little bit desperate on the court, and didn’t do the things that I had to do. Didn’t stay tough mentally.”

The mental toughness came from an unlikely source, Kuznetsova, who is used to doing the double-handed throat clutch, winning the US Open in 2004 but losing in three other Slam finals.

“I came out there and said, ‘Everything’s great,'” she said. “I’m just doing my thing I love. I’m enjoying. It’s my passion, what I’m doing. It’s my job. And I cannot ask for more.”

Safina regularly looked to her coaching box is desperation while Kuznetsova needed no such support, moving the lanky Safina side to side and up and back at will.

“This is finally my trophy,” said Kuznetsova, a former French runner-up. “I’m really happy, and nobody one can take from me. I have won Roland Garros and I have won US Open. I have it now.”

Safina looked on the verge of tears in the last few minutes on court, smashing her racquet after the loss.

It was a major confidence turn-around for Kuznetsova, who had won only six of 21 tournament finals since capturing the 2004 US Open.

“It’s been very tough times for me, especially before French Open last year,” she said. “I lost in Rome and I left to Moscow and my coach was not happy about it. I said, ‘I don’t want to train. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to go back to Spain.’ I said a few times I want to quit playing tennis. I never felt it. I said to Marat [Safin], ‘I don’t know, maybe I should not play.’ He said, ‘You are crazy or what? You have unbelievable opportunities. You just have to play.'”

At the Beijing Olympics, Kuznetsova shyly tapped Roger Federer’s shoulder for advice.

“He was looking at me and said, ‘What do you want?’ It was big because I knew once he said he likes my tennis. I didn’t believe it. I was talking to him about the problems I had. He was listening, and I said, ‘Look, I want to move from Spain. I want to go to Russia, I don’t know what to do. He said, ‘Look, you can only depend on yourself. You can control it. If you can concentrate and live in Moscow, do this. If you cannot, only you can judge.’ I came back to Moscow and I worked hard. I had time to do everything. I had my passion, my friends, I am in my home country. I’m very patriotic. I love being there. This is the moment it turned, because I started to work hard.I let it go. I said, ‘Whatever happens, I just do whatever I feel doing. I gave my best.'”

Her best during the past fortnight will bring Kuznetsova back into the Top 5. World No. 2 Serena Williams, who before the French boasted she was the real No. 1 in the world, during the French begrudgingly told the media that Safina is the true No. 1, and no doubt smirked at the outcome of the championship round.

The younger Williams sister, after losing to Kuznetsova, explained how she handed the win to the Russian out of her own ineptitude rather than the Russian “winning” the match.

Not one to slag off fellow players, Kuznetsova says she will continue to simply concentrate on her game and her new mental outlook. You could also throw in a possible run for her turn at the No. 1 ranking by year’s end. Because she’s no fluke.

“This is big,” she said. “Didn’t happen just by luck. To have two Grand Slam trophies, it’s big.”

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17 Comments for Kuzy Strong, Safina Not in French Open Finale

Anthony Says:

This goes to show that again Safina faulters in the final of a grandslam and she does not deserve to be the top player. Sure she had a good clay season and won 2 tournaments and made it to a final of the one kutnetsova beat her however her third grandslam final and she cant win. She lost to ana, serena, and now kuznetsova. So for those sayin well shes still the best bc she made it to to grand slam finals…serena made it to three and won the two of the three, loosn to venus at wimbledon. So serena 10 grandslams to safina’s how many……..0. Whos the real number one

Anthony Says:

i have another comment….if safina is the real number one, i didnt no champions double fault on not match point but CHAMPIONSHIP POINT

Giner Says:

Took you long enough to report this story.

And the way you use the C-word so liberally, I’m glad you don’t write articles for professional publications.

Some copy editing also helps. You have some errors, as well as incorrect fact checking:

—“This is finally my trophy,” said Kuznetsova, who lost in the 2004 final to fellow Russian Anastasia Myskina.—

She didn’t lose to Myskina in 2004. That was Dementieva. She lost to Justine Henin a year or two after that.

Al Says:

I thought Myskina played Dementieva in the 2004 finals. Didn’t Kutzie lose to Justine?

Anyway– I am so happy Kutzie won. She played a solid match. She knew what her game plan and stuck to it. Safina on the other hand could not think for herself on the court. She looked like she did not know what she was doing. I thought she should have been warned for illegal coaching. I mean it was obvious the dialogue that she was having with her coach.

I was also sad to hear how she was berating herself on the court. Her coach is very negative in his interaction with himself.

Congrats Kutzie–well deserved.

jane Says:

The way Kuz talks about just letting go and having fun and playing the game she loves to play, that’s what made it possible in some ways, and the reverse is true for Safina who is much too intense and needs to relax and enjoy herself out there at least a little bit more. As someone already mentioned, a sports psych would be good for Safina I think. I hope she can continue to play well and just put this, and the nasty comments like in this article, behind her.

Al Says:

I meant to say “in his interaction with her”

Jane.. Totally agree with you on the sports psych thing. I think she would need a coach that would give her more positive thoughts. It is like her self esteem is tied to how she performs on the court.

SG Says:

It’s not easy peaking for the final. It’s amazing how the truly great athletes (Federer, Woods, Nadal, Michael Jordan, Sampras…) had this ability to just let go of the occasion and allow themselves to kind of fall into the zone. It’s hard for me to do at the local tennis court. I can’t even imagine how these people do it on the biggest tennis stages. It’s a tribute to their talent, will and perseverance.

andrea Says:

another testament to the lack of interest in women’s tennis these days….only 5 posts here after the final.

tomorrow is going to be a totally different story.

i’m glad svetlana won. dinara has to learn to step it up in the finals and handle the occasion.

Kimmi Says:

Thats some sorry she has there about leaving spain and going back to Russia. And quiting tennis ? what is the deal with that…

Kimmi Says:

Should read, That’s some story she has …..

Tom Foober Says:

O come one… what are we doing here?

Giner Says:

Nothing to see here. Move along now.

margot Says:

Al: said in Beeb that her coach NEVER praises her. That is so awful. INMHO the carrot works much better than the stick. Also think she has suffered from too much parental pressure. They were certainly far too involved.
Kimmi: it was Kutnetzova, who on advice from Federer (!) moved from Spain, back to Russia. I thought she was quite a star.

Shan Says:

Kuznetsova is and was the bigger Russian for this one

Al Says:

Margot: Wow that his horrible, I never knew that. I mean she is paying him–she does not have to take it. She can change and get a different coach the same way Kutzie did. More positive.

Kutzie handled the win with such class. She knew and felt the pain of her opponent and did not rub her face in it.

joe Says:


Anthony Says:

plus im actually dissapointed in safina..nt surprised…but she cheated. Talkn to her coach knowing its agains the wta rules but of course they wont do anything. So cheaters will never prosper thts y she lost plus kutzy was by far the better player

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