Memories inspire Safina's US Open title quest

NEW YORK: World number one Dinara Safina would love to silence her critics and justify her ranking by winning her first Grand Slam singles title at the US Open the same way her brother Marat Safin did in 2000.

But the lanky Russian said it will be memories, not insults, that motivate her when the year's final Grand Slam tournament begins Monday on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts where she played her first Slam match back in 2002.

"This is the first Grand Slam where I played the main draw, so it's special," Safina said Saturday. "And my brother won here. To see him after, holding the trophy, you get some unbelievable feelings.

"I also started my professional career here and I won doubles here. So why not singles?"

That has been the question nagging Safina's career even as she ascended to the top ranking without a Slam crown and kept the spot despite Serena Williams winning three of the past four Slam titles but no other events in that span.

"It was a dream of my life to become number one in the world," Safina said.

Williams, an 11-time Slam champion who now holds three majors, ridiculed the WTA ranking system after her Wimbledon triumph and mocked Safina's place at the top thanks to dominance outside the Slams.

"I think if you hold three Grand Slam titles maybe you should be number one, but not on the WTA Tour obviously," Williams said at Wimbledon. "My motivation is maybe just to win another Grand Slam and stay number two, I guess.

"I'd rather definitely be number two and hold three Grand Slams in the past year than be number one and not have any."

Safina brushed off the comments against her potential US Open final foe.

"I don't care," Safina said. "I'm not doing the ranking system. What can I do? There is a ranking and if you look at the ranking, I'm number one."

Safina has been the runner-up at the past two French Opens and lost to Williams in this year's Australian Open final and last year's US Open semi-finals.

But she has served notice she is a threat at any Slam and this one is among her favorites.

"I always had good results here," Safina said. "I like playing here. Staying in downtown Manhattan you always have shopping. If you make some cash you can go spend some."

Safina said she feels well but has played too many events and will look to better organize her schedule next season after needing a rest when she arrived in New York.

"I think next year I will change a little bit, have a little bit more rest between the tournaments," she said.

Safina, who will open her US Open campaign against Australian Olivia Rogowska, could meet Serbian fifth seed Jelena Jankovic, last year's runner-up, in the quarter-finals.

Safina will also mourn the Slam farewell of brother Marat, 29, who plans to retire.

"It's sad because he's a great player and it's fun to watch him. He's like an entertainer on the court."