2009 U.S. Open: Dinara Safina Averts a Major Upset By Winning Ugly

Sudeshna BanerjeeAnalyst ISeptember 1, 2009

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 01:  Dinara Safina (L) of Russia shakes hands with Olivia Rogowska of Australia after Rogowska was defeated during day two of the 2009 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2009 in Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The name Rogowska continues to haunt!

Within two weeks of Anna Rogowska’s shocking upset of pole-vaulting queen Yelena Isinbayeva at the World Championships in Berlin, the U.S. Open too seemed to have its share of the Rogowska shock factor right up until the last moment, where it finally refused to follow the script.

And this last-minute change was brought on by the women’s world No.1, Dinara Safina, who somehow finally managed to clinch the win.

There was a beautiful ambience about Arthur Ashe Stadium on the second day of the U.S. Open—the sun was sparkling brightly, the jovial crowd had thronged the place, and it definitely appeared to be a perfect day to observe the beauty of tennis.

Everything seemed perfect because the numero uno player was facing an 18-year-old wild card—Olivia Rogowska, who had come all the way from Melbourne to participate in her first U.S. Open.

But within a few minutes, it was revealed that the tennis was never quite in consonance with the charming atmosphere.

For after two hours and 35 minutes of a seemingly never-ending slugfest, the match concluded with a grand total of 113 unforced errors, 24 double-faults, and a total of 15 service breaks!

Despite this, one cannot deny the poise, composure and gumption with which the Aussie teenager played and her errors can be excused because a large part of them came from her being so inexperienced.

Rogowska, who had already expressed her excitement of playing in the revered Arthur Ashe Stadium when the draw had been announced, brought it all out and delivered far more than what was expected of her.

After jittery nerves led to her losing the opening game, she managed to overcome that with her amazingly fluid wrist motion, producing some deadly groundstrokes that kept Safina on the defensive for most of the match.

After a fluctuating first set, she forced a tie-break and once more showed her marvellous fortitude to take the opening set as Safina double-faulted at set point.

As was expected, Safina did bounce back in the second set as she started making the crisper returns especially from the backhand side and a deciding final set was on the cards.

The third set had perhaps the most drama in store. It was purely a story of deuces, breaks of serves, and double-faults!

In an incredible fashion, Safina was the one who appeared to be crumbling first. Looking listless and jaded, Safina seemed to have lost it all.

Even her numerous screams which were in Russian, English and even in Spanish didn’t seem to do her any good.

Rogowska raced to a 3-0 lead.

But as had been the story of the day, errors inevitably had to interrupt the rhythm.

Safina finally managed to get onto the board in the final set after breaking Rogowska and then made it 2-3.

Undaunted, the 167th-ranked Rogowska continued to plague her higher-ranked opponent, and with her fast-paced, angular returns she stalled the momentum Safina had been gaining by inching ahead, 4-2, as Safina once more double-faulted.

But, Rogowska, whose lack of big-match experience finally started to expose itself returned the favour and Safina then held on to level at 4-4.

Though the Aussie made another desperate effort to hold serve, after staving off three break points, she finally had to succumb as Safina by then had overcome all her troubles.

Ultimately Safina did hold her serve brilliantly with a forehand winner on match point to win, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4, and managed to avert what would have arguably been the biggest upset of the 2009 U.S. Open.

Olivia Rogowska lost, but she certainly won a lot of fans and admirers and proved she could be quite a force to reckon with in the future.

As for Safina, she won...but boy did she win it ugly. Perhaps this is just another example of her terrible mental frailty. The fortuitous Safina might have escaped today from becoming the first top seed to tumble out in the first round at New York in the Open Era, but it would do her less good.

For it would further ignite the controversy over the legitimacy of her No. 1 ranking, and, most importantly, her bare escape in the opening round certainly doesn’t augur well for her hopes at the U.S. Open, as the road ahead is far more treacherous.