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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Safina digs deep to outlast Mauresmo

Safina digs deep to outlast Mauresmo

June 30, 2009 01:23 IST

Dinara Safina finally got to show why she is top seed on Wimbledon's showpiece court, taming former champion Amelie Mauresmo on Monday to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

The Russian needed to call on all her battling qualities to thwart the Frenchwoman 4-6 6-3 6-4 in a match that ebbed one way and the other before Safina finally imposed her aggressive baseline game in the dying stages of the deciding set under a closed roof on Centre Court.

"She pushed me to play my best tennis," Safina told a news conference.

"I'm feeling pretty good... enjoying it more and more playing on grass."

Safina, chasing her first grand slam title, had been finally granted her wish to play in the main arena in this tournament yet her victory was overshadowed by events from above - the closing of Wimbledon's new roof for the first time drawing more attention and applause than any of the tennis served up by either player.

Second on after Roger Federer had dispatched Robin Soderling, both players were greeted by swathes of empty seats - probably fans seeking refuge from the stifling heat and taking a late lunch, rather than a comment on a match-up of contrasting styles.

Safina, no box-office draw despite her ranking status, took early control to lead 3-0 but then lost five games in a row as Mauresmo, who had won four of their six previous meetings, showed glimpses of the form that took her to the 2006 title as she matched the Russian's pounding but erratic groundstrokes.

Safina, who rarely appears at ease with herself at the best of times, appeared to be on the verge of a meltdown when trailing 1-0 and 40-0 in the second game of the second set.

Her notorious temper briefly erupted when she argued with the match umpire over a line call but she channelled her emotions to begin a fightback to take a 4-1 lead before a light rain shower forced the players off court.

Resuming under a closed roof, Safina forced a deciding set but then had to battle back from 3-0 down to get on top, finally vanquishing Mauresmo when the Frenchwoman tamely netted a forehand.

"I let it go to 3-0, but still I think I was playing good. I just was missing. I was going for the right shots, but just was missing a little bit," said Safina, who now meets German Sabine Lisicki in the last eight.

"Then luckily I could turn the match around. That shows that I was missing, and I put them all together in and I was there in the match."

Inevitably, post-match questions focused on playing under the new roof and Safina said she had enjoyed the experience.

"I didn't have any problems, you know, to adjust. I felt pretty comfortable.

"It was really nice atmosphere to play under the roof, because somehow you feel a little bit more the crowd. Even the crowd also wanted the roof, so it was like unbelievable atmosphere on the court."

Justin Palmer
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