Safina celebrates 23rd birthday with No. 1 ranking
Dinara Safina turned 23 and got a pink cake from Porsche Grand Prix organizers
The tournament was her first since claiming the No. 1 ranking a week ago
Safina is only the second Russian woman after Maria Sharapova to reach No. 1
STUTTGART, Germany (AP) -- Now that she has the No. 1 ranking she's craved, Dinara Safina is looking ahead to her next goal of winning a Grand Slam tournament.
Safina turned 23 on Monday and received a pink cake from the organizers of the Porsche Grand Prix, her first tournament since she became the No. 1 a week ago.
"I try to celebrate every time I have a chance," the Russian said. "But I am working very hard to win a Grand Slam, that's my next target. I feel like I can do it. I've been in two finals. I have not finished my mission in tennis."
Safina is the 19th woman to top the rankings since they were introduced in 1975. She is also only the second Russian woman after Maria Sharapova to reach No. 1.
Safina replaced Serena Williams at the top, even though the American beat her in the Australian Open final this year. Last year, Safina lost to Ana Ivanovic in the French Open final.
She and her and older sibling Marat Safin are the only brother-sister duo to have been No. 1 in professional tennis.
Safina said the turning point in her career came last year in Berlin, when she beat then-No. 1 Justine Henin and went on to win the tournament -- which has disappeared from the WTA schedule. She also beat Serena Williams in that event.
Henin never played another match and retired soon afterward.
"Berlin changed everything," said Safina, who was ranked No. 17 at the time.
Safina also credited coach Zeljko Krajan, a former Croatian pro, for helping to improve her game. Krajan became her coach late in 2007.
"He took me from No. 17 to No. 1. I was lucky I found the right person at the right time," Safina said. "He opened my eyes, he said, 'You have great shots. Use them.'
"Before, I thought I had the shots but I didn't know how to use my weapons," Safina added. "I got into the top 100 quickly but then I struggled there for a long time. When I was 20 I knew there was a lot left inside me and that dream of becoming No. 1 kept pushing me."
Safina could have become No. 1 at the Australian Open, had she not lost to Williams. She then let several other opportunities slip away until she finally wrapped up the top ranking.
"I had it within my hands but when you have the pressure to win every match, you are not relaxed. Now I have it and I am relaxed. Sometimes you have to be patient," Safina said. "But it's going to be a challenge to remain No. 1 because everyone will want to beat me."
Safina's half of the draw includes Jelena Jankovic, the defending champion at the Porsche Grand Prix and another former No. 1 who has never won a Grand Slam title.
The tournament has been moved from October to April and is now played on indoor clay -- the idea being that it will be used as warmup for the French Open. Six of the top 10 players are in the field, but Serena and Venus Williams have decided not to play.
Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.