File: Dinara Safina at the 2008 WTA Tour Championships
It has been a rough Australian Open for every female Muslim tennis player. They each took different paths to get to Sydney. But, ultimately, their fates were the same. The first of the first round casualties was Franceâ€™s Aravane Rezai, whose demise was probably the most disappointing. Coming is as the 17th seed in the ladiesâ€™ singles draw, she faced the optimistic prospect of playing an unseeded player, Czech girl Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, in the first round. Strycova, however, stormed to a 6-0 first set victory. Rezai fought back to take the second set 6-3, but Strycova won the third set 7-5 to end Rezaiâ€™s Aussie dreams before they had hardly even been dreamt.
Sania Mirzaâ€™s story was a bit more spirited. The Indian barely had time to breathe the prior week. She battled her way through three rounds of qualifying matches and strung together the necessary victories to gain entry into the main draw of the Australian Open ladies singles event. But in the first round she was greeted by seven-time grand slam winner Justine Henin. Mirza fought valiantly, also taking advantage of an injury on the part of Henin. And Sania took the first set 7-5. But Henin took the next two sets 6-3, 6-1 and took the match.
Akgul Amanmuradova also lost in the first round. The Uzbeki fell to Germanyâ€™s Kristina Barrois 6-4, 6-2. The loss was especially disappointing in that Akgul had a decent draw, opening with a player ranked lower than her. Amanmuradova is currently ranked number 72 in the WTA world singles rankings, while Barrois is ranked 7 points lower at 79.
But the saddest story belonged to Russian Dinara Safina. It was an especially difficult 2010 for the Russian former world number one, as injury and other struggles sent her tumbling to number 75 in the world. Unfortunately 2011 has so far been even worse. In the third in a series of first round losses, Safina was double-bagled 6-0, 6-0 by Kim Clijsters in the first round. The sister of menâ€™s former number one Marat Safin, Dinara will clearly need more time to straighten out her game, and her head.