Wed, Oct 07, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Serena back at No. 1, Nadal survives scare

AFP , BEIJING

Zhang Shuai of China returns a shot to top seed Dinara Safina of Russia at the China Open in Beijing late on Monday. Zhang beat Safina 7-5, 7-6.

PHOTO: AFP

US tennis superstar Serena Williams regained the world No. 1 ranking with an easy win at the China Open yesterday, while Rafael Nadal survived a scare in his opening match.

Defending champions Andy Roddick and Jelena Jankovic were both upset at the US$6.6 million tournament, a combined ATP/WTA event aimed at bolstering China’s position as a key tennis marketplace.

Russians Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva advanced to the round of 16 in the women’s draw, as did their countryman Marat Safin, on a day of blinding A-list star power at the Olympic tennis center.

Williams, the second seed in Beijing and current world No. 2, breezed past Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova, 6-3, 6-2, into the round of 16, ensuring that her name will be atop the WTA rankings when the new list is issued on Monday.

The path to the top spot was cleared for the 28-year-old Williams, who last held the top ranking in April, when current No. 1 Dinara Safina crashed out of the tournament on Monday, losing to Chinese wild card Zhang Shuai.

“It feels pretty good. I’m really excited. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I’m obviously happy to be there because I feel like I’ve been working so hard all year,” Williams said.

Nadal, the top seed and world No. 2, held off a fierce challenge from former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, winning in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

The hard-hitting baseliners remained even throughout much of the match, delighting the crowd with long rallies and hitting amazing angles with their ground strokes.

Roddick, the third seed in Beijing, stumbled out in straight sets to Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot, 6-2, 6-4, while China’s Peng Shuai defeated the eighth seed Jankovic, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam winner, fired 13 aces in her gutsy three-set come-from-behind win over ninth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5.

In other women’s matches, fourth seed Dementieva, fellow Russian seventh seed Vera Zvonareva, 10th seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy and 14th seed Marion Bartoli of France, all moved into the round of 16.

In the men’s draw, fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko, fifth seed Fernando Verdasco, seventh seed Fernando Gonzalez and Safin, the 2004 China Open champion, all won their opening matches.

■JAPAN OPEN

AFP, TOKYO

US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro crashed out of the Japan Open in the first round on Tuesday, beaten by unseeded French qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

The 21-year-old Argentine top seed, playing his first match since his victory at Flushing Meadows last month, struggled throughout the clash, losing 4-6, 4-6 in 88 minutes.

Gilles Simon of France, defending champion Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, and 2001 Tokyo champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia safely went through, all beating Japanese wild card entrants.

Fresh from his victory in Bangkok last weekend, third seed Simon breezed past Takao Suzuki 6-3, 6-4. Fifth seed Berdych whipped Go Soeda 6-2, 6-4, while eighth seed Hewitt outclassed Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 7-5.

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