Skip to main content

No. 1 Safina first to reach WTA showpiece

  • Story Highlights
  • Dinara Safina wins opening game at L.A. Women's Tennis Championships
  • World No. 1 beats Daniela Hantuchova to qualify for WTA Championships
  • The Russian is the first player to qualify for the season-ending event in Doha
  • Maria Sharapova also in third round after beating third seed Victoria Azarenka
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- World No. 1 Dinara Safina became the first player to qualify for the season-ending WTA Championships after winning her opening match at the L.A. Women's Tennis Championships in Carson, California.

Russia's Maria Sharapova is seeking to return to her best form after an injury-hit past year.

Dinara Safina started her hardcourt season with a straight-sets victory against a former world top-10 player.

The Russian dispatched Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova 6-2 6-4 in the second round, having been handed a first-round bye, to set up a last-16 clash with Chinese 14th seed Jie Zheng.

Safina will line up in the third round alongside compatriots Maria Sharapova, Nadia Petrova, Anna Chakvetadze and second-seeded Vera Zvonareva.

"It was a good match for my first match back here in America. I didn't do anything spectacular, but I was solid," Safina, who has yet to win a Grand Slam title, told the WTA Tour Web site.

"Daniela is a dangerous player. I knew what I had to do. I had to be aggressive -- there's no other way."

If she beats Zheng, Safina will next face either former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, the sixth seed from Serbia, or Australian 13th seed Samantha Stosur in the hardcourt event.

The 23-year-old will play in Doha for the second successive year, with the top eight women's players to battle for $4.45 million in prize money from October 27 to November 1.

"Qualifying for the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships is one of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year," Safina said.

"I've accomplished a lot of milestones this season and am thrilled to be the first to qualify."

Former world No. 1 Sharapova continued her encouraging return to form on Wednesday night following a serious shoulder injury that ruined most of last season and the start of 2009.

She defeated third seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-2 as the match stretched to two and a half hours.

Her next opponent is unseeded Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko, who battled past Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 5-7 6-4 7-5.

"I had so many chances to win the first set, but I was able to win the second set and play a solid third," Sharapova said.

"I knew going into this match I was going to have to dig deep and hang tough to stay in there. I learned a great deal, and I've given myself another chance to play tomorrow. I have a lot of support here in Los Angeles and it feels like home."

If she beats Bondarenko, Sharapova will face either Chinese 12th seed Li Na or unseeded Urszula Radwanska of Poland for a place in the semifinals.

On the same side of the draw, Zvonareva is next up against unseeded Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, who beat American wildcard Jill Craybas 7-6 (7-2) 6-1.

The winner of that match will play either fifth seed Petrova or last year's losing finalist, 10th seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy.

Chakvetadze will take on Polish eighth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the last 16, with the winner to then play either German 17th seed Sabine Lisicki or unseeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea.

All About Dinara SafinaMaria SharapovaAna IvanovicVera ZvonarevaTennisSports

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print