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Top-seed Safina survives a scare

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Associated Press
September 2, 2009
— Dinara Safina overcame a long, mistake-filled display of tennis Tuesday to barely avoid becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open.

She defeated 167th-ranked Olivia Rogowska of Australia, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4, in a match that included 113 unforced errors, 24 double-faults and 15 service breaks over 2 hours, 35 minutes.


“I didn’t break any rackets and didn’t get any warnings,” Safina said, when asked if there were any silver linings. “That’s already positive.”


She overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third set to avoid becoming the first top-seeded player to be ousted in the first round of any Grand Slam since Martina Hingis lost, 6-4, 6-2, to Virginia Ruano Pascual at Wimbledon in 2001.


Safina served out her final game at love, forcing errors on Rogowska’s ground strokes during one of the Russian’s few sustained runs of consistency.


Safina’s coach, Zeljko Krajan, was clearly having trouble watching it—slumping, scowling and shaking his head from his lonely seat in the stands.


Safina moves on, but all the questions about her worthiness as the world’s No. 1 player will certainly gather steam.


No. 2 Serena Williams has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year. Safina doesn’t yet have a career Grand Slam victory, getting blown out in all three finals she’s been in.


“In the French Open, I won all the matches 6-love, 6-1. Did it help? Not really,” she said. “It happens like this. You pull out the match somehow.”


It was the second big scare over the first two days on the U.S. Open show court. On Monday night, third-seeded Venus Williams overcame a balky knee and some shaky play for a 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3 win over Russia’s Vera Dushevina.


Safina, whose brother, Marat Safin won the 200 U.S. Open, had 48 unforced errors and 11 double-faults.


Other winners Tuesday included No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 10 Fernando Verdasco on the men’s side and No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, No. 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 13 Nadia Petrova for the women.


Seeded players who lost included No. 29 Igor Andreev, who fell to American Jesse Witten, and No. 16 Virginie Razzano, defeated by Yanina Wickmayer.


Safina will play her second round against Kristina Barrois, a relative unknown who now gets her chance to tie history.


The earliest a top-seeded woman has been ousted from the U.S. Open is the second round. That was last year, when Ana Ivanovic fell to Julie Coin of France, who moved up 55 spots in the rankings thanks in part to that victory.



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