Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Safina fights past Krajicek

DIFFICULT MATCH The Russian player claimed the Gold Coast title last month by beating Martina Hingis, but had to battle to defeat her lesser-known Dutch opponent

AFP , PARIS

Russian Dinara Safina returns the ball to Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands during their first-round match at the Paris Open on Monday. Safina won 6-4, 7-5.

PHOTO: AFP

Seventh-seeded Dinara Safina struggled to find her rhythm early on but eventually battled through to the second round of the US$600,000 WTA Paris Open on Monday, beating the Netherlands' Michaella Krajicek 6-4, 7-5.

In a clash between two sisters of considerably more famous tennis-playing brothers, a solitary break of serve in each set sufficed to send the Russian through.

Safina, who was champion here in 2005, made the most of a sloppily played ninth game by Krajicek before serving out for the set at the first opportunity.

The second set followed a similar pattern but this time it was a poor 11th game from Krajicek that handed her opponent another break. From there, Safina served out the match despite dropping to 15-30 in the final game.

The Russian has been in fine form this year, claiming the Gold Coast title last month by beating Martina Hingis in the final.

"This was a tough first round; she's a good player and I lost to her the last time," Safina said."I tried to stay focused and just play my game."

Safina won a thrilling three-set battle against world No. 3 and home favorite Amelie Mauresmo in 2005 before the Frenchwoman claimed the title for the second time last year.

"This tournament has always been good for me. The first time I came here I reached the semi-finals," Safina said.

"The people working here are very nice so it feels like a little family and it's really nice to always come back here," she said.

The Russian was the biggest name playing on the opening day and did not let the center stage get to her, upping her game at the vital moments in both sets.

In the day's other first-round match, France's Emilie Loit outlasted Eleni Danilidou of Greece in a marathon three-setter, 7-6 (9/7), 6-7 (1/7), 6-4.

Belgian world No. 2 Justine Henin is the top seed and both she and Mauresmo, who have first round byes, are due to launch their campaigns either today or tomorrow.

Henin is playing in her first tournament since pulling out of last month's Australian Open due to personal reasons. She later announced she had split from husband Pierre-Yves Hardenne.

Eight of the top 13 players in the world are competing in Paris, including a strong Russian presence with five of the top eight seeds.

Yesterday, Czech teenager and rising star Nicole Vaidisova was scheduled to tackle French hopeful Aravane Rezai, the daughter of Iranian immigrants.

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