Proud momma excited about daughter's first trip to a major final
First she saw her son Marat win two Grand Slam titles, and now Raouza Islanova will be along for the ride when her daughter takes the court on Saturday for the French Open championship.
Not long after Dinara Safina reached her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros with a surprisingly succinct 6-3, 6-2 victory over fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, she rushed into her mother's waiting arms in the players' lounge.
Raouza Islanova, a famed tennis coach in Russia, grabbed her daughter and hugged her tightly -- clearly every ounce the proud parent. Islanova, blonde hair cut short, often offers a stern pose courtside. But the woman who also coached Elena Dementieva and Anastasia Myskina during their formative years was all smiles and softness as she briefly fussed over Safina before she went off to meet commitments.
For Islanova, it was the ultimate culminating moment, unless, of course, her daughter goes on to win the title on Saturday. Then she could say she is the mother of two Grand Slam champions. But even if that is not the outcome of this French Open, Islanova has the distinction of being the first mother to have a daughter and a son reach a major final.
She provided her son, Marat Safin, fundamental teaching as a youth and then sent him off in his early teens to train in Spain. Often noted for being irascible, Safin first gained notoriety when he played near-perfect tennis while upsetting world No. 1 Pete Sampras in the 2000 U.S. Open final. A four-time Grand Slam finalist, Safin won his second major at the 2005 Australian Open.
And now Safina, who also has a history of hot-headedness, earns her first Grand Slam final berth. Unlike with Marat, Islanova has had a guiding hand in her daughter's pro career but now willingly takes a backseat to current coach Zeljko Krajan.
These days, she says, "I am just mother."
"For me, it's different -- win or lose, it's my children," Islanova said. "For my heart, it's not whether they are winners. For me, I want to help and we, the family, we stay together and that's very important. We are very close. It's not like it's Marat's life and it's Dinara's life -- we all stay together."
Although she hesitated to assume a coaching posture, Islanova analyzed why her daughter has finally gone past the quarterfinals at a major.
"Dinara has become stable mentally," Islanova said with the help of a friend interpreting on this question. "She has settled down and it's helped her to focus even on the court when there's a big audience."
Islanova says Safin relishes his role as the older brother, which sometimes translates into needling his sister at times, even in public forums such as press conferences.
Yet she is pointed about making sure it is understood their closeness in no way changes the fact they lead very separate lives. In fact, she was visibly surprised by a question wondering whether Safin would return to Paris to watch his sister in the final on Saturday.
"Why does he need to come?" a perplexed Islanova questions back in English. "He sent her his congratulations. He's now staying at Wimbledon. He left [for Wimbledon] yesterday."
Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.
MORE TENNIS HEADLINES
- Hewitt wins Hall of Fame title in third attempt
- Davenport, 4 others inducted into Tennis Hall
- Bautista Agut tops Rosol in Mercedes Cup final
- Top-seeded Halep powers to Bucharest title
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2008 FRENCH OPEN
French Open Video
May 25-June 8
Women: Justine Henin
Men: Rafael Nadal
Day 15 • Men
• Ford: Nadal simply too good against Federer
• Garber: Federer resolute in confidence, ability
• Harwitt: Rafael Nadal the best clay-courter ever?
• Photo gallery: Best of Week 2 from Paris
• Ubha: French Open men's final instant analysis
Day 14 • Women
• South Americans take men's doubles
• Garber: Maturation, confidence help Ivanovic
• Ford: Zen-like calm elevating Ivanovic
• Harwitt: Can Ivanovic hang on to No. 1 ranking?
• Ubha: French Open women's final instant analysis
Day 13 • Men
• Bob Bryan, Azarenka win French mixed doubles
• Garber: Federer in need of a monumental effort
• Ford: Nadal handles Djokovic with relative ease
• Harwitt: Borg spends birthday extolling Nadal
• Who will win the French Open women's final?
Day 12 • Women
• Garber: Ivanovic, Safina set to duke it out
• Ivanovic to take over No. 1 ranking
• Ford: Djokovic ready to reshuffle world order
• Latest Dirt: Men's semifinal preview
• The big three: Federer looking past Monfils?
• Harwitt: Safina's mom has reason to extol virtue
• Men | Women
• Latest Dirt: Women's semifinal preview
• The big three: Federer semifinal streak lives on
• Harwitt: Rolling out the red carpet
• Tennis.com: Federer's time right now
Day 10 • Men | Women
• Garber: Serbs thriving because of each other
• Chip and Charge: Assessing the French
• The big three: Nadal-Djokovic ready to battle
• Sharapova to fall from top spot after French Open
• Men | Women
• Garber: Sharapova sent packing by Safina
• Latest Dirt: Americans officially done
• Garber: Ranking the sweet 16 players
• The big three: Federer and Gonzo to clash
Day 8 • Men | Women
• Garber: Ferrer worthy of being in top five
• Latest Dirt: Evaluating the top-five players
• The big three: Humdrum day for Nadal, Djokovic
• ITF to probe player's claim she was told to lose
• Ex-French Open winner Pierce hoping for return
See all stories from Week 1