|Aussie Open 2011 practice|
I first saw Dinara play live at the Beijing Olympics when she faced Li Na in the semifinals. This match was one of the worst atmospheres I've ever witnessed in sport. I'd been to quite a few sessions of the tennis at the Olympics by the time the semis rolled around and, to put it nicely, Chinese people had/have no idea how to watch tennis. They had no understanding that you don't call out during points, or laugh when a player catches a service toss, or clap for double faults. After surviving Li Na's upset of Venus in the QF I had had my fill of the crowds.
But Dinara vs Li Na was about to get worse! It was a battle from the beginning and the crowds were booing Dinara when she was trying to pump herself up. They booed her when she yelled 'come one' and at one stage the crowd's treatment was so bad Dinara's coach stood up and screamed at the chair umpire to do something. It was just awful, and when Dinara won the first set in a tiebreaker I got the hell out of that stadium. I had never felt so awful for a player and had such anger toward a crowd. Even Li Na got peeved during this match - she stopped and glared in the direction of someone who'd yelled out during play.
So I missed Dinara winning in two tight sets to advance to the gold medal match. Sadly, I was supposed to have been at the gold medal match but thanks to rain the gold medal match became said crazy tense semifinals. It would have been fantastic to have been in the gold medal match with two Russians so the crowds probably wouldn't have been so involved.
Dinara's perseverance in that hostile, maddening environment proved how mentally tough she is.
|Beijing Olympics semifinal vs Li Na|
I certainly never thought Dinara would reach world #1 and become a huge threat at slams. Berate her for losing badly in three slam finals, but she was a fantastic clay court and hard court player and I hope her back heals so that she can compete well again. She's a massive fighter and gives her all - really hope she takes the time off she needs and that we're lucky enough to see her back on the courts someday.