Fri, Apr 10, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Safina will be new No. 1 after Serena loses in Marbella

WORLD N0. 95 WINS Unheralded Czech player Klara Zakopalova sent Serena Williams packing after having only two tour matches this year

AFP , PARIS

Dinara Safina reacts while playing against Samantha Stosur at the Sony Ericsson Open on March 29 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

PHOTO: AFP

Russia’s Dinara Safina, who will replace Serena Williams as world No. 1 later this month despite never having won a Grand Slam title, insists she will prove she belongs on top of the rankings.

The 22-year-old Safina, whose brother Marat was the men’s top player in the world in 2000, will replace Williams, who has been on top for 11 consecutive weeks, and 72 in all, on April 20.

“There’s no question that while I am very proud of my results over the past year, I would have liked to reach this achievement in a different manner,” said Safina, the runner-up to the American at the Australian Open this year.

“I hope to prove to everyone over the coming months that I merit the honor of being world No. 1,” she said.

Safina is only the second Russian woman, along with Maria Sharapova, to hold the top spot.

Her elevation was announced just after Williams suffered a shock 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 first-round defeat against world No. 95 Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic in the first round of the Andalucia Tennis Championships in Marbella, Spain.

Over the past year, Safina has won four WTA Tour singles titles — Montreal, Los Angeles, Berlin and Tokyo and was runner-up five times, including the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

She was also a silver medalist at the Beijing Olympics.

Meanwhile, Williams slumped to defeat in her first claycourt outing of the season handing her Czech opponent a first win over a top 10 player since 2003.

Williams had been beaten in the final of the Miami hardcourt event on Sunday when her performance against Victoria Azarenka was severely hampered by a thigh injury which required heavy strapping.

The 26-year-old Zakopalova, a top 30 player in 2006, had only won two of her matches on tour this year before this week.

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