Safina Leans on Marat as She Seeks Success

INDIAN WELLS, California -- Dinara Safina doesn't have to look far for a role model as she builds her career in the tennis world.

Big brother Marat Safin is bidding to regain the world No. 1 ranking and won the first Grand Slam of the year in Australia in January.

Dinara's achievements are more modest but she is leaning on Marat as she navigates her way on the WTA Tour.

"Sometimes he's a little hard, but he wants the best for me," she said in Indian Wells where she is preparing for the Pacific Life Open.

"He won't wish bad things on me. He told me I was traveling too much with my mom and when I was playing, I was looking too much at her and waiting for help. Now I'm playing alone, I'm more mature and concentrate more. That's what my mom wanted from me, too."

Safina recently ended her coaching relationship with her mother, Rausa, who not only once coached her and Marat, but a slew of other top Russian players including French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and runner-up Yelena Dementyeva.

The player says her relationship with her mother has improved since the split.

"It was tough," she said. "We saw a lot of each other. We lived together and worked together. She'd get uptight and we'd begin to fight about stupid things, like where I put my phone.

"It's just like any family when you spend too much time together. It's better now."

The 22-year-old Dinara enters this week's $2.1 million Pacific Life Open at a career-high ranking of 29, but despite the lofty ranking she has no hopes of joining the glittering Russian Fed Cup team.

"There's no chance," she said. "You have to be Top 10. They can make three teams: Top 10, Top 20 and the rest. But also there's always arguments, 'Why does one play, why doesn't the other one play, why is she playing when I'm in better shape?' There are problems. They'll play good without me."

Play at the Pacific Life Open begins on Wednesday when Kim Clijsters, the 2003 champion, makes her return to U.S. soil for the first time since the end of 2003.

Clijsters came back three weeks ago in Antwerp after being off the tour for a year with a wrist injury.

American and top-ranked Lindsay Davenport is the tournament's No. 1 seed, followed by Amelie Mauresmo, Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and her fellow Russians Yelena Dementyeva and Svetlana Kuznetsova.