Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Dinara Safina: Mental Battles


"I try to do something good, but when it doesn't go good, then I go like too much into myself, what I'm doing right, wrong, instead of thinking more what I have to do with the ball."

--Dinara Safina, #1 ranked women's tennis player in the world and top-seed woman at the U.S. Open in New York.


New York, New York (USA)-- Dinara Safina came very close to becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the 2009 U.S. Open. She entered the match with the best women's winning percentage (52-12, .813). She was matched against Olivia Rogowska, a 18-year-old from Australia, a wild card competitor with one single career title as a professional and one victory over a top-50 player.

Rogowska won the first set in a tiebreaker when Safina seemed to lose her chronic war on nerves.

No top seed on the women's side at the U.S. Open in the Open era had ever lost a first-round match. It's only happened four times in the majors in 41 years. The highest seed to lose in those circumstances was Martina Navratilova, a third seed in 1976.

However, Safina worked her way back into the match and she was able to subdue the No. 167-ranked player in the world. The final was 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4, but Safina was challenged by Rogowska and by her own emotions.

"A total mental battle," ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez observed. "She fought herself."

Despite her overall success, Safina continues to struggle mentally.

Excerpts from ESPN.com (September 1, 2009)

For more in Choking, Panic and Failure, click on Failure: The Peak Performance Field Guide #2.

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