Serena advances, Safina ousted in Toronto 2nd round

August 19, 2009 03:06 PM

TORONTO (AP) -- Dinara Safina is out of the Rogers Cup.

The No. 1-ranked Russian fell 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to Aravane Rezai of France in a second-round match Wednesday at the $2 million WTA Tour event.

Safina’s loss came one day after No. 3 seed Venus Williams was upset by Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko. Safina opened strong, but fell apart in the second set with six double faults and winning fewer than half of her points on serve. Safina finished with 17 double faults.

The 23-year-old was broken three straight times in the third and deciding set, slamming her racket to the ground after the final point.

Safina fought her emotions while trying to explain how the match got away.

“It’s my brain,” said Safina, who lost an opening match for the first time since February. “I know exactly what I have to do, but if I’m not using my brain, I’m not doing the things my coach is telling me. … (I’m) too disappointed with myself.”

Second-seeded Serena Williams cruised into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova. Williams broke away with a run of eight straight points in the second set, and took a commanding 5-2 lead with a lunging forehand winner that left her doing the splits, pumping her fist in jubilation.

“I’m really flexible,” Williams said. “I love doing the splits off the court … I never really expect to do it on the court per se. On the hardcourt sometimes you can slide, and before you know it you just do the splits.

“It was a great moment. I was like ‘Oh my God,’ I couldn’t believe I hit the ball down the line and won the point. I was so shocked.”

Williams, who closed things out on serve one game later, will next face Alona Bondarenko, Kateryna’s sister.

“They’re great players,” Williams said of the Bondarenko sisters. “They do well in doubles. It’ll be a good match, and I look forward to it.”

Six of the top 10 seeds have been eliminated over the first three days, including No. 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki.

Wozniacki fell 7-5, 6-3 to China’s Zheng Jie. Wozniacki was broken seven times in the match, and saved just one of four break points in the second set.

No. 12 Flavia Pennetta of Italy was also beaten, 6-3, 6-1 by Virginie Razzano of France.

Seeded players advancing included: No. 4 Elena Dementieva of Russia, who cruised past Japan’s Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-2; No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, a 7-5, 6-4 winner over Switzerland’s Patty Schnyder; and No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, who downed Italy’s Roberta Vinci 6-3, 6-3.

Maria Sharapova, working her way back from a shoulder injury that sidelined her for nearly a year, also reached the third round with a 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Sybille Bammer of Austria.

Sharapova wasn’t at her best, but was good enough to reach the round of 16 in her first visit to Toronto since she was a teenager.

“I’m actually having a competition with myself to see how many errors and double-faults I can make and still win the match in two sets,” Sharapova joked. “The fact that I served that way and still won the match in two sets is certainly going to give me a lot of confidence when my arm is where it needs to be and when my serve gets to where it has to be.”

Sharapova didn’t expect any competitive advantage with all losses by seeded players.

“It means absolutely nothing to me, because I look forward to my next opponent, whoever that may be, top seed or not,” said Sharapova, who will face No. 7 Vera Zvonareva next. “You certainly don’t wish that the top players lose or go down, that’s just the way the tournament goes.”

When asked what specifically had gone wrong with her serve, Safina had a long list.

“Ball toss disaster. I don’t move my legs, I’m jumping backwards instead of jumping forwards, I’m kicking it too much instead of hitting it more, I drop my head, I don’t hold the left arm.

“It’s so much. I know this all, and I’m still so stupid that I’m continuing to do it.”

Safina enlisted help from her coach during the match—but he couldn’t help her shake her struggles.

“How can he help me if I’m not doing anything?” Safina said. “I have a game plan and I step on the court, and I do completely the opposite thing.

“He was just frustrated … he left the court. He said, ‘When I’m telling you one thing, and you do completely the opposite thing and you’re losing, you’re just moving backwards.”’

Rezai, who will face Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova in round three, felt for Safina after the match.

“I’m very sorry for her because I don’t like a player who’s not confident,” said Rezai, ranked 39th in the world. “I prefer to beat a player in good shape. I’m a player that feels when I lose, it’s the worst moment in my life.”

Despite the loss, Safina is in no danger of losing her No. 1 ranking—even if No. 2 Serena Williams goes on to win the tournament. Williams hit the court later Wednesday against Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova.

With less than two weeks until the US Open, Safina said she would use the time to catch her breath.

“I will take a few days off,” Safina said. “I think this is the best … you know, just to recover, and rest. Not much you can do, you know?”

In other action, No. 14 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland routed Agnes Szavay of Hungary 6-1, 6-1; Kleybanova outlasted No. 16 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (4); Shahar Peer of Israel ousted Francesca Schiavone of Italy 7-6 (2), 6-4; and Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko cruised past Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 6-3, 6-0.