DOHA, Qatar — Five good matches at this week's WTA Championships should confirm Dinara Safina as the first Russian woman to end the year as world No. 1, but whatever happens, she knows some people will never be satisfied.
Safina, who edged back in front of Serena Williams when the latest world rankings were released on Monday, has spent a large chunk of 2009 at the top spot.
However, the glaring absence of any grand slam titles on her CV, compared to the American's 11, has meant her authenticity has been repeatedly questioned.
"I don't care anymore. They can say whatever they want. I am where I am, and that's it," Safina said with a wry smile when asked the most worn-out question in sport as she prepared for her first match against Dane Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday.
A record 20 wins in 22 matches during the claycourt stretch this season is often overlooked, while her feat of reaching the Australian and French Open finals this year was tarnished by poor displays in the title matches against Williams and compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The WTA rankings are designed to reward consistency, and although Safina's win-loss ratio of 55-15 is not to be sniffed, grand slam titles are still the accepted measure of greatness.
"Call them to make a ranking system how they want to make it," said 23-year-old Safina, who will stay ahead of Williams if she betters or matches the American's run here.
"I mean, I'm close, I've been in three grand slam finals, so it is there. And I've been in two semis.
"Last year I was winning every tournament and they were asking me why I'm not number one. This year I became number one and there is no grand slam.
"It is every day going to be something. So let me take it step by step. It's not that I don't want to win a grand slam, of course I do. But I guess I need to work a little bit more."
Safina played poorly last year in Doha, when the WTA showpiece was held in the Gulf state for the first time, losing all three round-robin matches on her first appearance in the WTA Championships.
This time, she has been grouped with debutants Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic, the third person to hold the top ranking this year. It looks a favorable draw on paper as she looks to keep Williams at bay.
"It's not an easy group. Everyone is saying like it's easy, but there is no easy group. It's the eight best players. You cannot pick the draw," said Safina.
"I just want to focus only on myself. I don't care who is playing on the other side. I want to go out there, play my game, do the things that I have to do and that's it, and let's see the end result."
While it may not be a grand slam title, claiming the $1.5 million first prize on Sunday would be the next best thing, according to Safina, who was pipped to gold at the Olympics last year by compatriot Elena Dementieva.
"I think to win here, it's something very big," said the Monte Carlo-based Muscovite. "You know, from the first match, you have to be in top shape.
"It's not like in a grand slam where until basically third round, fourth round, you have some matches that you don't have to play 100 percent, you can win struggling, but you still can make it. Here, if you're not ready, you're out."