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September 3, 2009

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Home » Sports » Tennis

Safina nearly runs aground in opener

THE Russian armada of potential US Open champions nearly lost its commander when top seed Dinara Safina had to dig out of a third-set quandary to avoid the humiliation of a first-round exit at Flushing Meadows on Tuesday.
Safina, the world's top-ranked player, uncorked 48 unforced errors and 11 double faults before conquering Australian Olivia Rogowska 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 35 agonizing minutes in New York.
"I didn't break any racket and I didn't get a warning so that's already a positive," said Safina, a triple grand slam finalist whose volatile temperament is well documented.
While Safina escaped and set up a second-round encounter with Germany's Kristina Barrois, compatriots Maria Sharapova Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva advanced easily.
On the men's side, 2008 runner-up and second seed Andy Murray advanced, along with 2007 finalist Novak Djokovic, the fourth seed, and hard-hitting No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Safina's near-flameout allowed her to avoid the dubious distinction of becoming the only top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the US Open.
The explosive Muscovite was down 0-3, 15-40 in the final set before making a Houdini-like escape on the sun-drenched hardcourt at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"I will never give up," said Safina, still looking for her maiden grand slam triumph. "So it doesn't matter how I play, I will run and I will stay there forever.
"I will do everything to win the match."
She certainly never gave up but she was certainly helped by the 65 unforced errors and 13 double-faults from her little-known opponent across the net.
The match was a festival of errors, each player begging the other to take command. When Rogowska assumed control in the final set, her nerves got the best of her.
"I'm disappointed that I was in a winning position and I let it go," said Rogowska, an 18-year-old wildcard from Melbourne ranked 167th.
"But it's a great learning experience. I'm getting confidence that I can match it up to the No. 1 player in the world."
Sixth seed and 2004 winner Kuznetsova stomped Germany's Julia Goerges 6-3, 6-2, while Sharapova, the 2006 champion, blitzed Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova 6-3, 6-0. Another Russian contender, 2004 finalist Dementieva, routed Frenchwoman Camille Pin 6-1, 6-2 in 59 minutes.
Murray used a patient game to defeat big-hitting Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 7-5, 6-3, 7-5, while Djokovic never lost his serve and cruised past Croat Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.
The Scot, who lost to Roger Federer in last year's final, will play Chile's Paul Capdeville in round two as he aims to become the first Briton in 63 years to win a grand slam tournament.
Tsonga beat American Chase Buchanan 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 to set up a second-round match against Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, who beat Italy's Fabio Fognini 7-5, 7-6 (6), 6-4.


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