Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Serena, Safina advance to Sydney quarter-finals

AP , SYDNEY

Serena Williams returns to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez at Sydney International at the Sydney International yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Top-ranked Serena Williams opened her season with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez yesterday, reaching the quarter-finals at a Sydney International where other leading players have struggled.

No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova lost 7-5, 6-2 to Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova later yesterday, joining fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, No. 7 Jelena Jankovic and No. 8 Vera Zvonareva as losers in the first two rounds.

Second-seeded Dinara Safina was in trouble in her first set after quitting with a back injury at the season-ending championships in October. Safina lost the opening five games before recovering to win nine straight in a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

Safina will next play Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva, who held off Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus beat Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm 6-1, 5-7, 7-5.

Elena Vesnina, who advanced from the first round when Zvonareva retired hurt on Monday, lost 6-3, 6-4 yesterday to Vera Dushevina, who now plays Williams in the quarter-finals.

Williams is using the Sydney tournament as her main warm-up for first major of the season, which starts next Monday in Melbourne.

She won the WTA Championship on Nov. 1 and had a bye in the first round. She spent only 1 hour, 12 minutes on court against Spanish Hopman Cup winner Martinez Sanchez as temperatures hit 33ºC.

Williams said she wanted to play matches to acclimatize quickly, with the southern city of Melbourne experiencing a heat wave a week ahead of the Australian Open.

Safina spent 1:47 on court and dropped serve five times in a struggle against No. 10-ranked Radwanska. Despite the slow start, she said the back inflammation which restricted her training until the middle of last month didn’t cause her any concerns in Sydney.

In men’s first-round matches, sixth-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia advanced over Frenchman Florent Serra 7-6 (5), 6-4, No. 8 Benjamin Becker had a 6-3, 6-3 win over Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina, and American Mardy Fish beat Australia’s Carsten Ball 6-4, 7-6 (4).

American Sam Querrey, seeded fifth, lost 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to Russia’s Evgeny Korolev.

■HEINEKEN OPEN

AP, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber took advantage of a late change in the draw to beat qualifier Inigo Cervantes-Huegun 6-2, 6-3 yesterday to reach the second round of the Heineken Open.

The fifth-seeded German was originally drawn to play former world No. 3 David Nalbandian, but the Argentinian withdrew from the tournament on Monday with an abdominal strain.

Spain’s Cervantes-Huegun, who had been beaten in the last round of qualifying, moved into the main draw as a lucky loser.

“I expected a tough match today [against Nalbandian] and I was more nervous than usual but maybe he was not 100 percent,” Kohlschreiber said. “Still, I was looking to play a good match and it was nice to be out here.”

Former world No. 4 Sebastian Grosjean was also a beneficiary of Nalbandian’s late withdrawal, inheriting Nalbandian’s wild card and beating Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to advance to the second round.

The win was Grosjean’s third in as many matches against Mayer, including his 2004 victory in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

Big-serving American John Isner avenged a 2008 loss to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez when he beat the 41st-ranked Spaniard 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

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