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Serena No. 2 to Safina in US Open seedings

DEFENDING champion Serena Williams was seeded No. 2 for the US Open behind Dinara Safina yesterday because the tournament stuck to its policy of strictly following the world rankings.

Roger Federer was seeded No. 1 for the fifth time at the year's last Grand Slam. He is ranked No. 1 and has won the US Open five years in a row.

Safina is No. 1 on the WTA Tour, which based the rankings on performances across tournaments over the preceding 52 weeks. The younger sister of former men's No. 1 Marat Safin is still seeking her first Grand Slam title. She is winless in three major finals, including a loss to Williams at the Australian Open in January.

Williams has won three of the past four Grand Slam singles championships and 11 overall, the most among active women. She will be seeking her fourth US Open title.

Tournament director Jim Curley said the US Tennis Association did discuss the possibility of moving Williams ahead of Safina.

"The US Open has the prerogative of altering its seedings; it's something we have not availed ourselves of in quite some time," Curley said in a telephone interview. "We certainly spoke about it, but it never got to the point where we were seriously intending to not follow the rankings."

Since 1997, the USTA has matched its seedings to the ATP and WTA rankings.

"The players do earn their rankings over a 12-mointh period, both at Grand Slams and non-Grand Slam events. At the end of the day, whether you're seeded No.

1 or seeded No. 2 at the US Open, it really doesn't matter. You're either at the top of the draw or the bottom of the draw, and the rest of the draw is determined by a coin toss," Curley said. "From a competition perspective, there really isn't any difference being seeded 1 or 2."

The draw will be announced on Thursday, and the tournament begins on Monday.

After the top two women, two-time US Open champion Venus Williams is No. 3, followed by Beijing Olympics gold medalist Elena Dementieva and 2008 US Open runner-up Jelena Jankovic.

Maria Sharapova is No. 29 - barely earning one of the 32 seedings after rising from No. 49 in the rankings last week. She won the 2006 US Open for one of her three major titles but missed the tournament last year because of a right shoulder injury. The Russian had surgery in October and a long absence from the tour dropped her ranking.

Sharapova is among a dozen Grand Slam singles champions seeded at this year's US Open. One major champion in the field but not seeded is 2005 US Open winner Kim Clijsters, who recently came out of retirement and received a wild card from the USTA.

"This year was very interesting because not only did you have the Dinara-Serena situation but you also had ... Maria Sharapova, a former champion here, who might have been unseeded, and then you also had Kim Clijsters, who only has two tournaments on the computer and therefore doesn't even have a ranking," Curley said. "We looked at those two, as well, and still ultimately decided to continue to follow the rankings."

After Federer in the men's seedings are 2008 US Open runner-up Andy Murray, six-time major champion Rafael Nadal, 2007 US Open runner-up Novak Djokovic and 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick.


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