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'Smack me' says relieved Safina
World number three recovers from verge of defeat by French teenager Alize Cornet.
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2009 07:33 GMT

Safina had a scare [GALLO/GETTY]
World number three Dinara Safina saved two match points and won the last five games in an extraordinary comeback to beat French teenager Alize Cornet 6-2 2-6 7-5 in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Cornet was on the verge of a huge upset when she recovered from losing the first to lead 5-2 in the third until her game suddenly fell apart under a ferocious attack from the Russian.

Cornet twice failed to serve out the match and squandered two match points in the 10th game as Safina abandoned her cautious approach and started playing more aggressively.

'Like a junior'

"I played like a junior today, it's just lucky that I went through," Safina said on Sunday.

"I guess she was just not ready to beat me. I was just hanging in there.

"There was nothing special that I did. On match point I hit a winner but it's her unforced errors (that proved decisive)."

Safina has long lived in the shadow of her brother Marat Safin, who saved a match point in the semi-finals against Roger Federer before winning the Australian Open men's title in 2005.

The 22-year-old Dinara is yet to win a grand slam title but has inherited the same self-deprecating humour as her older sibling, berating herself for allowing Cornet to get so close to beating her.

Mind over matter

"I'm just a little bit disappointed about this match, playing against this girl and allowing myself to do these kind of mistakes," she said.

"The game is there. I just don't know what's going on through my mind.

I-scream-Cornet: Victory was so close for the teenager [GALLO/GETTY]
"Somebody (should) smack me so hard in my head that something shakes finally and I put the cables together."

Safina's dark moods and irreverent approach to tennis are also shared by her coach Zeljko Krajan, who deploys some unusual psychological tricks to get the best out her.

"(He told me) if I continue playing like this, he may as well just go home," she said.

"I keep telling myself to hit the ball but my arm just doesn't want to, because my mind is just stupid."

Title hopes

Despite failing to reach her own expectations, Safina has not given up hope of winning the title in Melbourne.

"She plays either Jelena Dokic or Alisa Kleybanova in the quarter-finals on Tuesday and there are just two other players in the top six still left in the women's draw.

"For me it's the first time I'm actually in the quarters. I've never had great results here, so I'm pleased," she said.

"Maybe this is the way I play in Australia, I don't know, but on the other hand, it's just the first grand slam and nobody's playing great."

Source:
Agencies
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