Dinara Safina needed some time off and she got it, though hardly at a good time - eliminated in the third round of the U.S. Open after an ugly week’s stay at Flushing Meadows.
Her 2009 U.S. Open featured: Three poorly played, three-set matches, including her loss to 72nd-ranked Petra Kvitova that ended in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
A veritable slap in the face from tournament organisers, who moved that third round match out of Arthur Ashe Stadium and over to Armstrong, while allowing James Blake and Tommy Robredo, ranked 21st and 14th, to stay on the show court.
Yet another round of uncomfortable questions about her status as the world’s top-ranked player, a ranking she has earned over a year of consistent play but has failed to punctuate with a major title.
She will keep her No. 1 ranking despite an early exit that came after committing 125 unforced errors and 35 double-faults over nine sets.
“A little bit of everything,” she said when asked to explain her struggles. “Also just playing, playing, playing, playing. Let’s just say sometimes you need some time to work on something. I don’t even have time for myself to relax and to calm down and to say, OK, let’s practice.”
That can be, in a nutshell, the curse of being No. 1. To get there and stay there, you have to play deep into a lot of tournaments.
Safina looked tired, rusty and nervous all week. She said she felt some “tension” trying to break through at a major, and also some fatigue from her hectic schedule. She has played 67 matches this season and won three tournaments - at Madrid, Slovenia and Rome. That compares to 52 for No. 2 Serena Williams, who has won twice - at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
“Somehow, I’m still not used to it, and I guess I need a little bit some time to realise how it is,” Safina said. “Net year, I think I’ll be more experienced and I’ll plan the schedule better.”