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October 7, 2009

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Home » Sports » Tennis

Serena reclaims top ranking

SERENA Williams returned to the top of the world with a routine win at the China Open in Beijing yesterday but Andy Roddick and Jelena Jankovic plumbed the depths when their title defences ended in their opening matches.

Serena Williams reclaimed her No. 1 ranking with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ekaterina Makarova of Russia in the second round.

Based on pre-tournament calculations, Williams moves to the top ranking by finishing better than current No. 1 Dinara Safina at the tournament. Safina lost to local wildcard entry Zhang Shuai in the second round on Monday.

The WTA reported that Safina's upset loss made No. 226 Zhang the lowest ranked woman ever to defeat a No. 1. Julie Coin of France held the previous record, having a No. 188 ranking when she beat then No. 1 Ana Ivanovic at last year's US Open.

Williams needed just over one hour for the relaxed victory in which she fired three aces and conceded just one double fault.

"It feels pretty good. I'm really excited, I guess," Williams said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, but I'm obviously happy to be there because I feel like I've been working so hard all year and just happy to be back."

Williams has spent a total of 72 weeks as No. 1, including from February 2 to April 19 this year. The American said her focus for the rest of the year would be the WTA Tour Championships in Doha at the end of October.

"This a tough part of the year. It's kind of toward the end and everybody's bodies are starting to ache, you're really fighting and you just do your best," she said.

Former No. 1 Maria Sharapova rallied to keep her impressive comeback alive with a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5 win over Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Sharapova, who last week won the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo for her first tournament victory since returning from a 10-month injury layoff, recovered from a 2-5 deficit in the final set, winning five games in a row as ninth-ranked Azarenka struggled to find a response.

After winning the second set tiebreaker, Azarenka broke Sharapova three times to take a commanding lead. The tide turned in game eight, when Sharapova won a break of her own and then made a stand that proved too much for Azarenka.

"I knew that if I just kept steady and maybe I got an extra ball back and kept going for it and being aggressive, maybe good things will happen," Sharapova said. "And today they did, and I certainly felt like I stepped it up when I needed to.

"I realized I certainly don't want to be going home. I don't want to be leaving China that soon, so I just went for it. I kept being aggressive and I stayed positive -- I think that gets you a long way."

China's Peng Shuai upset defending champion Jelena Jankovic 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a further setback for the Serb's hopes of playing at Doha. Jankovic is currently No. 8 in the rankings and only the top eight qualify.

Jankovic, who retired in last week's Tokyo final, said her arm and wrist continued to bother her, especially in the third set.

"I couldn't hit the ball hard enough," she said.

Fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia beat Melinda Czink of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-3.

In men's play, defending champion Andy Roddick crashed out to Polish qualifier Lucasz Kubot 6-2, 6-4, while top-seeded Rafael Nadal opened his campaign with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over Cypriot wild card Marcos Baghdatis.

"I was trying stuff out there and nothing seemed to be working too well," Roddick said.

Marat Safin enjoyed support from the Chinese fans on his way to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jose Acasuso of Argentina. James Blake of the United States downed Germany's Florian Mayer 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in another first-round match.


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