Dinara Safina made tennis history for herself and her family when she officially climbed to the world No. 1 position in the women’s rankings yesterday.
Safina, 22, is at the top for the first time. Her brother Marat Safin led the men’s rankings for nine weeks in 2000, making them the first brother-sister act to top the singles rankings.
“I didn’t know about that until recently. I was told that we are the first family. That is a huge honor, and I am proud of my brother, he has achieved everything in tennis,” Safina said.
Safin is playing in the dusk of his career far from the top of the rankings at age 29, but Safina rejects all criticism that he could have won more than Grand Slams than just the 2000 US Open and 2005 Australian Open title.
“You can think a lot but he could have also won no Grand Slam. I think he has achieved a lot,” said Safina, adding: “My brother was always my idol.”
Successful brothers and sisters are rare in sport.
Zimbabwe’s Cara and Byron Black got to the top of the tennis doubles rankings and skiing siblings Hanni and Andreas Wenzel of Liechtenstein and Janica and Ivica Kostelic of Croatia have also enjoyed illustrious careers.
US athletics greats Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Al Joyner both won Olympic gold medals.
Safina’s career has seen a remarkable turnaround in the past year.
Ranked just inside the top 20, Safina was on the verge of quitting the sport after poor results early last year but then got her act together with four titles and her first big finals at the French Open and the Olympics.
She also made the final of this year’s Australian Open, losing a showdown for the trophy and the world No. 1 position to Serena Williams of the US.
Safina attributes the rise to coach Zeljko Krajan, who, she said, made her see tennis in a “positive” way.
It has not gone unnoticed that Safina — like Serb Jelena Jankovic last year — is now top without having won a Grand Slam but dismisses any criticism.
“I can win every one of the remaining three Grand Slams of the year. Every one!” she said.
Safina is the 19th No. 1 since the rankings were introduced in 1975 and is the second Russian to top the rankings after Maria Sharapova.
“We are totally different, you can’t compare us at all,” she said of Sharapova but added: “We are both fighters, we don’t like losing.”