By Paul Levine, SportsTicker Contributing Writer
|Chanda Rubin returns a serve to Marissa Irvin in the first round of the JP Morgan Chase Open© Streeter Lecka/Getty Images|
CARSON, California (Ticker) - Chanda Rubin was the former champion that had the best day at the the $585,000 JP Morgan Chase Open. Rubin rallied past American countrywoman Marissa Irvin, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (5) in the featured night match in the opening round of the U.S. Open warm-up hardcourt event at the Home Depot Center.
Rubin survived, but Conchita Martinez - another former champion - was burned by Nathalie Dechy of France 6-4, 6-4 in 105-degree heat.
"It was an important match for me to go out and win," said the 14th-seeded Rubin, who scraped off the rust to improve to 9-5 on the year. "Basically getting into a tournament is always that way but especially for me now because I haven't had a lot of matches. I haven't had a run of matches that I've really been able to play. That's really what I'd like to get out of this week. This is a good start to pull out this kind of win."
After undergoing left knee surgery in January 2002, Rubin returned to hoist the title here with a stunning victory over Serena Williams. She ended 2003 with a No. 9 ranking, including titles in Madrid while defending at Eastbourne. However, Rubin's knee became inflamed at Tokyo in February, limiting her schedule to events at Vienna and Wimbledon before playing Fed Cup last week.
"It's definitely important for me to get some matches and try to feel more confident, to continue to have my knee come along," said Rubin, who was playing just her fifth match since the injury. "That's the best I can hope for. It's OK, so far so good. It's not 100 percent but it feels decent."
After splitting lopsided sets, Irvin served for the match at 5-3 but the local couldn't close it out, and the set eventually went into a tiebreaker. Rubin raced to a 6-4 lead and claimed victory with her fourth consecutive winner, including an overhead smash on match point, sending Irvin off the court in tears.
"I wanted to play aggressive in the tiebreaker, just keep hitting my shots and try to attack but not being crazy," Rubin said. "Try to take the match and that's what I was definitely able to do at the end. That's what I needed to do because she was aggressive, she was playing well."
Dechy was impressed by the longevity of Martinez, a 16-year veteran, who won this event in 1995.
"I couldn't believe when they announced she had won Wimbledon in 1994," Dechy said. "That was 10 years ago, and she's still out there. That's pretty amazing and she still has a great game."
Dechy will face Francesca Schiavone in the second round after the No. 11 seed Italian dropped American Shenay Perry, 6-0, 6-3.
Martinez has not made it past the first or second round in the last four tournaments, and the latest loss could signal retirement for the 32-year-old Spanish star.
"I'm playing another year but we'll see," said Martinez, who fell to 19-14 on the year.
Earlier in the day, No. 12 seed Sylvia Farina Elia and No. 13 Fabiola Zuluaga were sent to the sidelines. Farina Elia of Italy was ousted by Akiko Morigame of Japan, 6-2, 6-4, while Zuluaga of Colombia was crushed by German Anca Barna, 6-1, 6-1.
Two-time champion Serena Williams, and sister, Venus are the top seeds in the event worth $93,000 to the winner. Three-time champion Lindsay Davenport, fresh off her title victory over Venus at Stanford on Sunday, is eyeing her eighth final at the event in the last nine years.