- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. (AP) - Top-seeded Dinara Safina fought off three set points in a first-set tiebreaker and beat Tina Pironkova of Bulgaria, 7-6 (8), 6-2 in a second-round match at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night.

Safina, the younger sister of 2000 U.S. Open champion and former men’s No. 1 Marat Safin, can replace Serena Williams atop the WTA Tour rankings by reaching the final of this 12-day event. Williams, who beat Safina in the Australian Open final six weeks ago, is not playing here.

“I’m just going to focus on myself at this tournament,” she said, “but that (No. 2) is the reward for the success that I’ve had this year. I’ve played in three tournament and been in two finals.There is only one person in front of me and this is something big.”

Safina, who has lost in the third round here the past two years, will face No. 28 seed Shuai Peng of China in the third round and is positioned for a potential semifinal match against No. 4 seed Vera Zvonareva, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Yung-Jan Chan of Taipei.

In a late match, Urszula Radwanska of Poland upset No. 6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Radwanska, ranked No. 107, twisted her right ankle and fell trying to return a Kuznetsova forehand on the second match point and required medical attention. The 18-year-old was limping noticeably when she returned to the court but won the final two points when Kuznetsova hit a forehand volley into the net and another forehand long.

Amelie Mauresmo, coming back from yet another of the injuries that have plagued her in recent years, advanced to the third round with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

Mauresmo, No. 1 on the WTA Tour for a total of 39 weeks but out of the top 20 last season for the first time in 10 years, got her first tournament victory in two years by beating No. 3 Jelena Jankovic and No. 4 Elena Dementieva at the Paris Indoors. Her match against Groenefeld, of Germany, was her first since then.

The Frenchwoman, the No. 17 seed here, said the Paris win had an “unbelievable” effect on her confidence, even though it wasn’t reflected in Friday’s match, because “I was doubting my play, mostly physically, because I was really feeling either injured or not being able to really move the way I wanted.”

In 2007 Mauresmo missed four months of the season due to an emergency appendectomy and a right abductor strain and last year she was bothered by injuries to both thighs and her right rib cage.

Asked why she kept pushing herself at this stage of her career, she laughed and said “I probably didn’t find the answer to this question. I found the answer to the other question, which was do I want to stop, which was no. It was already quite a challenge when it happened in the summer of 2007, where I really asked myself whether I want to keep going or not. I didn’t find the answer quickly. It took me a few months to really feel that for some reason, I don’t have enough.”

The seeded players in the women’s field began play after first-round byes. Also advancing were No. 8 seed Victoria Azarenka and No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki. But No. 10 Marion Bartoli of France lost to Shahar Peer of Israel, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5, and No. 13 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland bowed to Na Li of China, 7-5, 6-2.

In men’s second-round action, American Sam Querrey was a 7-6 (2), 6-2 winner over Guillermo Canas of Argentina; Tommy Haas of Germany beat Oscar Hernandez of Spain, 6-3, 6-3; Taylor Dent of the U.S. overcame Diego Junqueira of Argentina, 6-1, 7-6 (3); Michael Russell of the U.S. topped Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, 7-5, 6-2; American Bobby Reynolds outlasted Fabio Fognini of Italy, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2; and Robert Kendrick of the U.S. beat Bjorn Phau of Germany, 7-5, 6-2.

Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, the No. 5 seed, withdrew due to a left heel injury.

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