On January 26, 2009, my sisters and I gathered in Garden Square to watch a tennis match – as we do.
We found ourselves surrounded by Australians, supporting the Australian playing tennis – as they do.
We watched our Aussie girl battle, battle battle, up against one of the best players in the world – as you do.
And we screamed, cried, shrieked, cheered, drank, cried, screamed, until she eventually succumbed to this player, ending a fairytale quarterfinal run.
The Russian girl apologized in her post-match interview, “I’m sorry I had to beat the Australian!” She smiled. “Hopefully, next time you will be supporting me!”
As the story had it, she had Aussies supporting her plenty more in future. That girl was Dinara Safina, and the Australian was Jelena Dokic. After their epic quarterfinal in the 2009 Australian Open, they both went in different directions that ended somewhere similar.
Dinara went on to win a slew of titles and achieve the number one ranking, before being practically carried off the court in the same venue, one year later. Following the crippling back injury that stalemated most of her career in 2010, she’s slowly trudging along the comeback trail.
Jelena’s celebrity ebbed and flowed. Following the golden run of 2009, she slumped once again, picked up a few times, and found herself yo-yoing between injury slumps and attempted comebacks, challenger wins and qualifying cop-outs. In 2011, the comeback trail was hers to blaze.
A few weeks ago, everything changed for both these girls. Jelena took her first title in nine years, the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. An inspiring moment, to be sure, and one which heralded an upcoming season to bring gratification to the most whiplash-weary Dokic fans.
Safina, too, started showing signs of life. After admitting she contemplated retirement as recently as January, the former Number One has shown signs of life, with an excellent showing in Indian Wells last week – including an upset over Australian Top 4 seed, beloved Samantha Jane Stosur.
Fans peeking through a curtain six months ago who would have seen the next two pieces of tennis news would’ve shaken the streets with joy over these headlines:
– Dokic on a hot streak; qualified for Miami Masters
– Safina back on track, playing well again.
Up against each other? Not so much.
I won’t be watching – what’s up with the Miami tennis not being televised until the first weekend? – but livescoring as I gallivant the icy, haily, snowy streets of New York. Mantra: COMEONEJELENACOMEONJELENACOMEONJELENACOMEONJELENA. It’s a wintry mix right now, but to me, it’s Australia Day 2009 all over again.