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November 3, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Now joining us we have the world No. 2 ranked player, Dinara Safina, who will be making her debut at the Sony Ericsson Championships this week. Dinara has a 55-17 record, including a 45-7 win/loss record since May. Earlier in the year she ranked number 17, and went on to win titles at Stuttgart, L.A., Montreal and Tokyo, as well as --
DINARA SAFINA: Berlin.
THE MODERATOR: And Berlin, sorry. And her first career Grand Slam final at Roland Garros. She climbed all the way up to No. 2 becoming the second Russian woman to do so. And at this time we'll turn it over to questions for Dinara in English.
Q. Was Berlin especially important? Is that where things started to turn around for you?
DINARA SAFINA: No, because in Stuttgart, and I had never won Stuttgart, that's why I couldn't play Berlin. But I would say, yeah, Stuttgart was a turning point of my career this year.
Q. Can you say a little bit more about how and why the turning point occurred and why it occurred then?
DINARA SAFINA: It's hard, if I would know why, I guess I would do it much earlier, and not at the age of 22.
Well, I guess it was the time. And just everything clicked that week. I don't know. Just once I stepped there from the first match I was playing my good tennis, and just day-by-day I was just better and better. And every match I was believing more and more in myself.
Finally, I had those wins that I think I was missing them, and I need them to for my own confidence to see that I can play, I can compete with the Top 10 players, and I also can be there. So I think it was just a break.
Q. Did the speed of your rise from outside the Top 10 to No. 2 in the world surprise even yourself? Were you amazed at how quickly it all happened for you?
DINARA SAFINA: It happened really like so fast. We just came really like a week after, I was going higher and higher in the rankings. It was really unbelievable. And every Monday it was coming out like, okay, Top 10. Okay, number 9, number 8, 7, 6, 5, and it was going up and up. And I really I think it was good that I had all the tournaments in a row so I can't have time to think what's going on. It was like in my dream I'm going and going.
Q. Do you think you can now go to No. 1?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, this year, no.
Q. No, but soon?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, I'll do my best to get there. I'll work hard. I know that I have the potential to be there. It's just a matter of being healthy, and giving my best day by day, and everything is possible.
Q. What has been such a successful season for you, what's been your biggest challenge?
DINARA SAFINA: I guess biggest challenge is to challenge with myself. When I play on the court and I just focus with only myself, and just I see only the ball when I play. But sometimes some enemies go in my mind. Then I'm complaining not only with the opponent, but also with the enemies in my brain. So I guess for me, the biggest challenge is myself.
Q. What do you do to try to help that and improve that focus? Are there ways that you train your mind or preparation you do to feel better?
DINARA SAFINA: What do you mean to feel better?
Q. You said sometimes you don't always see the (indiscernible). How do you improve your focus?
DINARA SAFINA: That's part of the practice, so I just, I don't know, because that's how it goes. If the practice is tough, in the matches are never as tough as in the practices. Because if you work really hard in practice, the matches are always going to be there, so that's what we're trying to do. To have a very tough practice, and in the match it never comes to this point where it can get tough. So we're trying to really do the practice.
Q. Since this is your debut tournament, how much hungry are you to win this one? Are you ready to go all out?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, if I would not be ready to go all out, I would not be here. So if I'm here, it means that I'm ready to go.
Q. You sounded a bit like your brother when he was talking about finding someone inside you. Do you talk a lot with your brother about tennis and about controlling your own emotions and things like that?
DINARA SAFINA: Not really that we talk a lot about this. We sometimes he gives me some advices, but it's -- he's a little bit different than me, so it's for me sometimes it's tough to get his opinion, his view.
So, as I said, I have my team, my tennis coach. It's his job to take care of these things (smiling).
Q. Can you explain a little bit more which sort of challenge do you do? Because not many of us play tennis at your level, and we don't understand exactly what is in your mind.
DINARA SAFINA: Well, it's just becoming too tough on myself. I like to have everything perfect sometimes. When it's a little bit not so good, I start to like to complain. So this makes me not start to not playing with the ball, but I start to play with the crowd.
If somebody screams and I think, Oh, why is he supporting the other player and not me? So sometimes it has nothing to do with the tennis, it's just something outside that to annoy me. But this I have to deal with myself.
Q. Your first time at this event, and I don't know, the round robin is a different kind of format. Have you thought about how you can deal with losing a match but still being in the tournament? It must be a strange feeling?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, I think it's something new for me. I've never played this kind of groups, but I think it's good. You always have a chance. Not in a tournament where you lose, and you start to maybe it's a little tougher mentally that maybe next day you still have to play.
On the other hand, it's also another challenge. For me, it's going to be a new experience. Whatever happens, the next day is another day, and I have another chance to win the match. So I think it's going to be different for me. I'm really looking forward to it.
Q. Jelena's going to finish the year No. 1, but do you think she's the player of the year or is that an honor someone else should get?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, it's obviously she deserves it because she played the whole year very high and consistent level. But, on the other hand, you can also say that Serena she didn't play as many tournaments as Jelena and Maria and Venus.
So if they would play the same amount of tournaments, maybe it would be different. But I don't know. But I think she is from the rest of the players she's the most consistent player and she really played at a high level the whole year, so she really deserves it.
Q. You were the first to arrive here. Did you see the excitement building up over these days? Do you think the locals, like for example, female players in Qatar will be helped by this tournament?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, I think it's nice to bring to this kind of country this kind of big events. The kids they can see us playing and it can motivate them. So I think it's going to be something new. Because I know here the most popular sports are athletics and football, so I guess after this tournament some kids may start to get interested in tennis.
Q. You said that sometimes Marat has given you some advice. Can you tell us what some of that advice was?
DINARA SAFINA: He would just tell me that if you see that you're starting to get emotional just ask for a towel. I said, What? I have to ask every five seconds for a towel. No, he's like, go, walk around. Don't think about this. Think about something else. I said, Yes, this I know.
But sometimes it's what I say, it's basic advice. Something somebody else would tell you. Go in there and get a bit angry, just step back a little bit. Take your time. But something more little was missing that now I found, so.
Q. What is the biggest difference from going 15 or 16 in the world to No. 2? What is the biggest change or best thing about that?
DINARA SAFINA: The biggest change? I guess the whole game changed by me. I became much more aggressive on the court, and I started to go much more for my shots where before maybe I was holding back a little bit. It's just to get there you have to use all your 100% every day. So I guess it's just a little bit different game. Just much harder, stronger to get there.
Q. Do you enjoy what comes with that? With people knowing you more now? And more attention?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, that's what I'm playing for. I think that was my goal. I had to get known as myself, not the sister of Marat. That's what I was playing for.
Q. Does the fact that you're now ranked No. 2 in the world give you great relief when you play those in the Top 7 or 8 that are ranked below you and used to be ranked above you?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, actually I can't say that all the Top 10 is very close. So, yes, I'm No. 2, but I came there because I beat all the players who are below me. But still, every opponent is very tough.
It doesn't matter that I'm No. 2. I can go on the court and play number 8 in the world and give my 50%, no, not at all. If I want to compete against her, I still have to give my 100%.
So it's still doesn't matter how high you're ranked, you still have to respect them and still have to give your 100%.
Q. I read the other day you made some comments about the road map next year. Are you unhappy with some of the changes that have been placed on the players for next year?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, overall if you look at the calendar, it looks very good the way it is, and the way the week's based and how much time we have off-season also between the tournaments. We always have time to prepare very good for the tournaments.
But there is just some small things that we maybe a little bit not agree. But we had a meeting yesterday, and now I think we're going to have again meeting after the tournament finish just to clear all misunderstandings that we have. I think, but overall, I think it looks pretty good.
Q. What are the points that you find problematic?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, as the meeting was closed doors, so it stays there in that room.
Q. Do you think Justine didn't take her decision in may, this quality of the top could be boastful, anyway?
DINARA SAFINA: What do you mean? If Justine was still here.
Q. If Justine was still here, would this quality in the first positions be possible?
DINARA SAFINA: I mean, for me, in my opinion, I mean, Justine was such a big player, so I think it would not be so easy to get to No. 1 spot if she would still be there. For me, I see her still I see her a very big player. She was the player like for me the best. So she just gives us a chance to take her spot (smiling).
Q. Given that you might have five very hard matches in a short space of time this week, has your preparation for the championships been different than for the other tournaments?
DINARA SAFINA: Different? Not really. Just it's another tournament, you know. Not try to really think. I mean, what is different? It's still the same players, you know. It's another tournament.
Yes, it's Top 8 players, but still you have to focus on yourself. You cannot think about other players. But this I have to change completely my game. No, no, it's wrong completely. I have to have my game, and I have to play my game. That's how you got to the top player.
The first one who starts to dominate, to show her game is the one who wins. It's just you have to even focus more on yourself.
Q. So your preparation won't be different?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, it's short time. I had ten days. It's not really where you can make the whole off season in five weeks to say, yes, I've been running marathons, I've been doing weightlifting. It's ten days.
You just try to put you as sharp as you can and as well-rested. Just put all the things together. But still, it's too short time to base something.
End of FastScripts