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Safina Wins Tight Opener; Bartoli, Schnyder Ousted

Top seed Dinara Safina won her opener but Shahar Peer and Li Na pulled off the first big upsets.

Published March 13, 2009 12:00

Safina Wins Tight Opener; Bartoli, Schnyder Ousted
Shahar Peer

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - The seeds on the top half of the BNP Paribas Open draw came out in full force on Friday, with top seed Dinara Safina leading the charge through their opening round. Fourth seed Vera Zvonareva also advanced.

Safina, ranked No.2 in the world behind Serena Williams, was given all she could handle early against Tsvetana Pironkova but eventually bested the giant-killer, 76(8) 62. Pironkova, who had Top 10 wins in the past against Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic, served for the first set at 5-4 and had four set points in the tie-break, but once Safina tucked that opening set away she couldn't be stopped. It was the Russian's first win since the semifinals of the Australian Open; she lost in the final there, then lost her opening match at Dubai in February, to Virginie Razzano of France.

Zvonareva, Safina's projected semifinal opponent, crushed Chan Yung-Jan in just under an hour, 62 62. Other seeded winners were No.8 seed Victoria Azarenka, No.9 seed Caroline Wozniacki, No.17 seed Amélie Mauresmo, No.18 seed Kaia Kanepi, No.19 seed Anna Chakvetadze and No.28 seed Peng Shuai.

Mauresmo rallied from 3-1 down in the third set to beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 57 63 64. It was her sixth straight match win: the Frenchwoman won five matches in a row at the Open GDF SUEZ in Paris in February, her 25th Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title - and, at the time, her first in almost exactly two years.

"It was my first match after almost four weeks, so I was just trying to get back into the rhythm. It was a good fight. I'm just happy to get through and have the opportunity to do better in my next match," Mauresmo commented. "Winning Paris felt unbelievable. It didn't show much in today's match, but throughout these last few weeks I felt I was really intense and hitting the ball great."

At night, Urszula Radwanska - the younger sister of Top 10 player Agnieszka, and a wildcard into the BNP Paribas Open draw - recovered from a break down in the third set to upset No.6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 62 46 63. It was her second career Top 10 win, having beaten her No.10-ranked sister this year in Dubai.

"This was one of the biggest wins of my career," Radwanska said after the match, which finished well past midnight. "I'm so glad to get through it but I'm worried about my ankle, which I twisted in the last game. Svetlana was very tough."

Several seeded players didn't make it past their opening tests. Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder and Anabel Medina Garrigues were the most notable upset victims, the 10th-seeded Bartoli racing through the opening set but eventually succumbing to the tenacious Shahar Peer, 16 64 75; the 13th-seeded Schnyder losing out to China's Li Na, 75 62; and the 16th-seeded Medina Garrigues falling in a two-hour plus war of attrition to Jill Craybas, 75 36 64. Others falling were No.24 seed Alona Bondarenko, who lost to Nicole Vaidisova; No.26 seed Iveta Benesova, who lost to Petra Kvitova; No.29 seed Carla Suárez Navarro, who lost to Alexa Glatch; and No.32 seed Sorana Cirstea, who lost to Elena Vesnina.

The bottom half of the draw, which includes second, third and fifth seeds Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva and Ana Ivanovic, among many, many others, plays their second round matches on Saturday at the $4.5-million event.

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