Dinara Safina, who upset herself with the poverty of her performance in the Australian Open final last month, followed it with one that she considered even more threadbare on Tuesday. The world No. 2 from Russia was beaten 6-4, 6-2 in her opening match of the Dubai Open by Virginie Razzano, a French player ranked 56 places lower and who almost failed to qualify directly for the tournament.
Safina lost the first four games, pulled it back far enough to make Razzano serve the first set out, but then fell limply away again in the second, apparently quite unable to impose her forceful game on a middle level opponent.
“This was worse than the Melbourne final,” Safina said. “I have been practicing great and feeling good, but sometimes this just happens.”
Another French player, Marion Bartoli, the eleventh-seeded former Wimbledon finalist, had to struggle to survive, needing two and three-quarters hours to win 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-3 against Francesca Schiavone, the Italian who defeated Justine Henin, the then world No. 1, here last year.
There were also defeats for Urszula Radwanska, who overcame her seeded elder sister Agnieszka for the first time on Monday, but now retired with cramps, and for Sania Mirza, India’s star player.
Mirza arrived at 5am on Monday and still had enough energy to get past Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, but then looked a little jaded as she lost her second round match 7-5, 6-2 to Kaia Kanepi, the 16th-seeded Estonian.
Later, Serena Williams made a shaky start and a storming finish to her first match since pulling out of last week’s Paris Open semi-finals with a knee problem.
The top-seeded world No. 1 won 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 against Sara Errani, the world No. 32 from Italy and pronounced the injury “okay.”
She was also asked about her views on the Shahar Peer affair.
In related news, the Wall Street Journal Europe on Tuesday revoked its sponsorship of the WTA Dubai Open women’s tennis tournament because the United Arab Emirates has denied a visa to Israeli player Shahar Peer.
“The Wall Street Journal’s editorial philosophy is free markets and free people, and this action runs counter to the Journal’s editorial direction,” the newspaper owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch said in a statement.
The newspaper’s move follows a decision by the Tennis Channel not to televise the Dubai tournament to protest the action against 21-year-old Peer, the world No. 48.
The New York Times quoted Ken Solomon, the chairman and chief executive of the Tennis Channel, as saying “this is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong.”
“If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision,’ he said.
AFP, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina advanced to the second round at the US$1.22 million WTA and ATP hardcourt tournament on Tuesday with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) victory over Guillermo Canas.
Del Potro blasted 11 aces and converted the only break of serve of the match in the first set to move into the second round, where he will face Ernests Gulbis.
The Latvia native defeated American Taylor Dent, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in his first round match.
Florent Serra of France provided the only big upset of the day, knocking off fourth-seeded Swede Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 6-2.
On the women’s side, top seed Caroline Wozniacki avenged a loss in the Australian Open to Jelena Dokic with a 6-1, 6-2 win over the Australian qualifier.