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Siblings share the spotlight at US open

sports Updated: Aug 27, 2008 12:57 IST
Larry Fine
Larry Fine
Reuters
Highlight Story

Marat Safin and Dinara Safina celebrated a family day at the US Open on Tuesday as the Russian brother and sister each posted first-round wins on a busy programme for siblings at the National Tennis Center.

Former champion Safin beat American Vince Spadea 3-6 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-4 and sixth-seeded Safina, silver medallist at the Olympics and winner of two titles this hardcourt season, eliminated American Kristie Ahn 6-3 6-4.

Safina has come of age this year with a trip to the French Open final and tournament wins in Los Angeles and at the Canadian Open. She is a serious contender to follow in her brother's footsteps by taking her first grand slam crown here.

"I think this would be my dream come true," the 22-year-old Safina said. "This would be the most amazing thing that can happen."

Besides the Russians, other siblings in singles action on Tuesday included the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, who have four US Open crowns between them, and sisters Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine.

Fourth-seeded Serena Williams, the 1999 and 2002 winner, spoiled the Bondarenko family fun by ousting Kateryna 6-1 6-4. Seventh seed Venus Williams, champion in 2000 and 2001, was opening the night programme against Australian Samantha Stosur.

Alona Bondarenko, ranked 31st in the world, made sure the day would end on a high after she beat American wildcard Jamea Jackson 2-6 6-3 6-2 in her first-round match.

Nostalgic exhibit

The flood of family activity at Flushing Meadows meshed perfectly with a nostalgic exhibit in the U.S. Open Gallery at Louis Armstrong Stadium called "Home Court," which traced the relationship of tennis and family across generations of tennis greats.

Safina said she learned many lessons from her older brother, who beat Pete Sampras in the 2000 U.S. Open final.

"I would behave like a baby and the crying and all this," she recalled. "He hated it. He was always, like, 'Come on. You have to grow up in your mind. You cannot behave like this.'

"When he plays his best, I would take everything that he has: his power, fighting spirit."

The 28-year-old Safin, given to temperamental outbursts on the court, was modest about his influence on his sister.

"I think she's totally ready to win the first grand slam. I think I'm really proud of the way she's handling the pressure and the way she's handling herself.

"I think if she will do everything opposite of what I've been doing throughout the years she will be number one in the world for a long time. That's as simple as it is."