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Nic Ladds 14th Jun 2009 - 19:59

Mental toughness so crucial in quest for Grand Slam

Poor old Dinara Safina. A woman who is undoubtedly one of the most talented women players in the world at the moment can be backed at odds of 8/1 for Wimbledon.

'Why?' I hear you cry, 'if she is at the top of her game then why is she such a big price?' and the simple answer is she doesn't have the heart or mental strength to win it.

To win a Grand Slam you have to have nerves of steel to go with your huge serve, lightning pace or precise backhand so when your plan 'A' hasn't worked, you have the guile deep down to do whatever you can to win.

Safina, at the moment anyway does not appear to have it, and her blow up in the French Open final is not going to do her any favours.

She was hot favourite coming in to her match with Svetlana Kuznetsova but you could see she was a bag of nerves and whether Kuznetsova was better than her or not, she kept her cool and could have played badly and still won.

The heartbreaking pictures at the end had a sobbing Safina absolutely devastated that she had played sublime tennis all the way up to when it really mattered.

While as world number 1 she has a degree of pressure on her, she heaps so much more on herself than necessary and on match point she made her seventh double fault of the day, a clear sign of her fragile temperament and something that cannot be rectified on the practice courts.

Kuznetsova had done it all before having won the US Open in 2004 so knew what it took to win a Grand Slam - nerves of steel. If you self-destruct in the final then that is it.

It's the little things that need to be done well - no double faults, as few unforced errors as possible and if you play consistently well then you'll find your opponent may well start making mistakes and that in turn will build confidence.

Kuznetsova incidentally is 14/1 for Wimbledon glory which is fair considering her record in this particular Grand Slam is poor.

If you looks at Safina's market rivals though, nearly all have proved they can do it at the highest level.

Venus Williams has won seven Grand Slams, her sister Serena ten, and rightly they are 11/4 and 5/2 respectively for a tournament they have dominated so much.

Maria Sharapova who is returning from injury at odds of 6/1 has won three and many may even fancy the out-of-form Ana Ivanovic more at 12/1 in the betting on the back of her 2008 French Open success.

The only one at the top of the betting who has not tasted success is Victoria Azarenka but she is an improving, rising star who has none of the pressure on her and has been playing sublimely well this year.

With a few big wins under her belt and is unlikely to go all the way at odds of 10/1 but for me you'd rather be with her in the later stages than Safina.

This may sound a little harsh on poor old Safina but for betting purposes when making your selection bear it in mind that if you don't have the mental game to win then all the skills and talent you have will count for nothing.

Safina will surely do well enough but this controversial world number 1 who has yet to win a Grand Slam will surely have to wait again.

She undoubtedly has the talent to win but until she conquers her mental demons, that elusive big win will always be beyond her reach.

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Below is the video of the Safina v Kutznetsova French Open final where the world number 1 was easily swept aside thanks to her nerves.


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