Azarenka wins, Safina set to enjoy life at the top

April 28th, 2009 - 2:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Serena Williams Stuttgart (Germany), April 28 (DPA) Victoria Azarenka won the first women’s tennis indoor clay court match on the WTA Tour while new world No.1 Dinara Safina enjoyed a birthday cake.
The fourth-seeded Belarussian Azarenka routed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the Porsche Grand Prix here Monday.

Azarenka, 19, is one of the hottest players this years with three titles Brisbane, Memphis and the Miami Masters.

Formerly played in October on carpet, the Porsche Grand Prix is now the first official WTA clay court tournament held indoors as the buildup in Europe for the French Open starts in earnest.

Safina said she feels comfortable in the conditions as she has already played several Fed Cup ties for Russia on the dirt under a roof.

Safina turned 23 Monday and the pink birthday cake from tournament organisers came at the right time as she likes to award herself with some unhealthy food for good things she has achieved.

“I like to give something to myself” and to “celebrate every time when the opportunity is there”, she said.

Safina is playing her first tennis tournament this week at the Porsche Grand Prix since taking the top spot eight days ago.

“It feels very good,” she said. “Staying number one is a challenge. But I want to enjoy the challenge.”

Safina was hailed as a big talent but spent a long time in the shadow of her brother Marat Safin who held the men’s top spot in 2000, falling victim to her temper and poor tactics.

The man who changed all that to the better is Zeljko Krajan, a former Croatian player who became her coach in late 2007.

“I was lucky to find the person who opened my mind. He took me from number 17 to number one,” said Safina. “Before, I had the shots but didn’t use them as weapons.”

The breakthrough came 12 months ago in Berlin when Safina beat then number one Justin Henin and American Serena Williams en route to the title.

“Berlin changed everything,” said Safina, who went on to win three more titles in 2008 and also was a finalist at the French Open and Beijing Olympics.

Safina reached another big final at the Australian Open in January but was crushed there by Williams in a match which was also for the top ranking.

Safina finally dethroned Williams last week and must now prove her class in Stuttgart where she could meet Serbian Jelena Jankovic, another former No.1 and the defending champion, in the semi-finals.

Safina does also not mind all the obligations which come with the top spot: “It will be new but this is what I wanted. I wanted to be famous.”

But she is already looking beyond Stuttgart, well aware that she will only be fully recognised as a top act with a Grand Slam title.

“My mission is not finished yet. I want to win a Grand Slam. I have to work hard but I think I can do it. I have been in finals,” Safina said.

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