I'm looking outside my window and I see pigs flying, hell has frozen over, Jesus is riding down from heaven on a pink unicorn, and Pete Bodo wrote this:
So that's what I got to thinking about, but let's make one of the most awkward transitions of all time and say that if you were looking for a role model today, and you were a girl, Dinara Safina wouldn't be a bad place to start. Seriously, let's stop for a moment to acknowledge that Safina has pulled off something that may represent more of an accomplishment than actually winning a Grand Slam event: she lifted her game right around this time last year, and she's kept it at that high level long enough to make it seem a quirk of fate that she hasn't won a major.
This is an especially relevant fact to ponder on a day when three of Safina's countrywomen (Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nadia Petrova, and Elena Dementieva) lost in Madrid, while Safina once again advanced, She beat Li Na, who went into the match with 13 wins over Top 10 players and a 2-1 edge in matches with Safina. In other words, with all kinds of excuses in place for Safina if she felt like mailing one in, or if she was feeling the pressure of her station.
I'll be the first to admit that I've been as critical as anyone of Safina emerging as the official no. 1 on the WTA Tour, and I still have a problem embracing a no. 1 who hasn't won a Grand Slam event. It doesn't help that I don't much like Safina's game. But let's face it: Safina has taken that mantle of no. 1 and worn it like she deserves it, like she's earned it. And here's something else: given a choice of ways to earn the no. 1 ranking, Safina herself might not have wanted to get it quite the way she did, because of the skepticism it would engender in people like me. But that's how it worked out.
So there's been significant, distracting pressure on Safina these past few weeks to prove that she's a worthy no. 1, and she might have crumbled under it in any number of ways (including just plain trying too hard). But Safina's responded to the call with great character and maturity. Her attitude has really made Jelena Jankovic's defense of her year-end no. 1 ranking look that much more feeble, although I'm open to the idea that Jelena's biggest sin as the new no.1 was training too hard - that is, wanting too much to be fit to defend her place in the new year. Can you say, "irony?"
Whatever the case, it's pretty clear that the level of play Safina first hit last year in Berlin has become her default level. Meanwhile, Jankovic must rebuild her game, one split and one insane running get at a time. But this spring probably belongs to Safina. Her standard of play over the past few months is such that she'll have every reason going into a Grand Slam even with all the confidence that consistently winning tournaments can give you. And in the end, even a Grand Slam is just a tournament.
I don't know what I dropped this morning, but it was some good fucking shit.