MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It sounds like Dinara Safina might be a chip off the old family block after all.
The 22-year-old sister of temperamental Russian star Marat Safin has often been compared with her older sibling because she tosses rackets, turns easy-looking wins into tight battles and generally looks like her mind is somewhere else during her matches.
Sort of like the "two Marats" persona that two-time major winner Safin often gets accused of being.
"It looks like," Safina admitted, smiling for the first time during a news conference that turned into a self-analysis after she beat Alize Cornet 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in a fourth-round match Sunday at the Australian Open.
"The game is there," she said after saving two match points in the final set. "I just don't know what's going on through my mind."
She's right about the game. Now ranked No. 3, Safina could be No. 1 by the end of the tournament if she wins the final.
She lost last year's French Open final to Ana Ivanovic and made the semis of the U.S. Open and reached the gold-medal match at the Beijing Olympics.
She didn't play that way Sunday, making 52 unforced errors (to 29 by Cornet), converting only 7 of her 14 break points (6 of 9 by Cornet) and serving eight double faults.
No one asked her for an assessment of her game so far in this tournament, but she was happy to analyze her play in successive wins over Alla Kudryavtseva (first round), Ekaterina Makarova (second), Kaia Kaneipi (third) and then Cornet.
For the most part, she wasn't very complimentary of herself.
"I'm lucky that I won first round … the girl, I didn't even have to stay in the court because she was playing with herself … shooting 10 balls in the fence, one in the court.
"I was lucky to go through the second round, because the girl, she could not win the match. OK, third round at least I played something. Today … I just don't know how many more times I need to prove that either I play or I should go home."
Her coach, Zeljko Krajan, told her as much after the match.
"He said if I play like this, you're going to go home … it makes no point for him to sit there and see me playing completely different from how I practice," Safina said.
"I practice playing aggressive, hitting the balls — from 10 times 10 I hit exactly where I need to hit aggressive. Then I come to the court and (it's) completely like my shadow is playing. Like, you know, Dinara is there, but just not me."
It was suggested that Safina was being too hard on herself, but she disagreed.
"If I'm soft, I'm not doing it either," she said. "If I'm hard, also I'm not doing. I don't know. Maybe I need to find the middle.
"But I think it's better to be hard and saying like, 'What are you doing?'"
Safina again mentioned her inability to transfer her strong play in practice to her matches.
"If you guys see me practicing, I mean, there is not one ball that I push aggressive," she said. "Then I come the court and I'm running outside of Melbourne, by the shadows, just missing the umpires. I mean, come on, just wake up."
She'll have at least a day to do that. Her quarterfinal Tuesday will be against surprise local hope Jelena Dokic, who beat Alisa Kleybanova of Russia later Sunday.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.