Ana Ivanovic and Dinara Safina practiced together on the eve of the Bank of the West Classic. The two former world No. 1 players with a combined 20 tour titles had to rely on wildcard invitations to gain entrance into the event. Now they’re both hoping to use it as a springboard back into prominence.
Ivanovic beat Alisa Kleybanova, 6-3, 6-2, Monday night in the first round, ending a two-match losing streak to the 26th-ranked Russian. Safina, plagued by a lower back injury much of the year, lost—again—to Kimiko Date Krumm, 4-6, 7-6(0), 6-2, in a match that lasted two hours, 22 minutes.
“The main difference is fitness,” Ivanovic said. “I’m able to maintain rallies and it has put me at ease. I always felt like I was pulling the trigger early and going for my shot without much confidence.”
The Serbia native is currently ranked No. 63, her lowest in five years, but after an early exit from Wimbledon, and losing five of her previous seven matches, she returned to training with gusto.
“I’ve been working pretty much every day since then,” she said. “It feels good and gives me confidence. It’s been tough because I began to doubt and question many things. It’s a process and I’m trying to be in the moment and not get too far ahead of myself. I felt like I’ve got the joy back, like when I was 16 and 17 and first coming to the tour.”
Safina extended her losing streak to six matches after dropping out of the top 20 for the first time in four years.
“One day you’re playing for a championship and the next day you’re playing in the first round,” Ivanovic said. “I hope she can get things straightened out.”
Date Krumm also beat Safina in three sets in their only other meeting—a 2:34 marathon in the first round of this year’s French Open.
Third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska needed three sets to beat South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers, 7-4, 4-6, 6-3 in her first round match.
“It was hard for me out there; this was my first match in four weeks, and I was playing on a hard court,” Radwanska said. “The first match is always the tough one and it doesn’t matter who is standing on the other side. You have to fight with yourself and try to stay in the match. This was a good test for me and I’m very happy to have won the match.”
The 11th-ranked Polish star recorded both of her aces in the third set and won both of her break points. Radwanska, who reached the semifinals at Dubai and Indian Wells, and the fourth round at Wimbledon, has won four of her last five matches after winning four of her previous 10.
Scheepers, ranked 91st, had a nice run at the French Open earlier this year, reaching the fourth round as a qualifier and making her debut in the top 100 on June 7.
In other first round matches, Olga Govortsova defeated Alla Kudryavtsena, 6-1, 6-1 and Dominika Cibulkova downed Stanford senior Hilary Barte, 6-2, 6-2.