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Maria Makes Strong Start

Maria Sharapova was sharp but Dinara Safina had to fight for her life as Round 1 wrapped up.

Published September 01, 2009 11:59

Maria Makes Strong Start
Maria Sharapova

NEW YORK, NY, USA - Dinara Safina very nearly became the first top seed in the Open Era to bow out of the US Open in the first round, rallying from a hefty third set deficit to beat a teen-aged wildcard on a hot, sunny Tuesday afternoon.

Safina, who is spending her 20th and 21st weeks as the No.1 player in the world during the US Open fortnight, had her hands full against Olivia Rogowska, an 18-year-old ranked No.167. After dropping the first set in a tie-break she got back on track by taking the second set, but the third set was full of drama as Rogowska built a 3-0 lead and was a point away from 4-0. Safina's game was out of sorts but she willed her way to win in a scrapper, 67(5) 62 64.

"I made it into the second round. That's a positive thing," Safina said. "There are moments like this when you have to dig in there, swallow everything and just fight. It was a bad day and then good points - hopefully it gets better."

"It was crazy. It was lots of fun. Every time I won a point, the crowd was really loud. I had chills down my spine," said Rogowska, who was playing her third Grand Slam main draw. "I'm disappointed I was in a winning position and let it go, but it's a great learning experience, the confidence I can match it up to the No.1 player in the world. Hopefully I won't let it slip next time."

Only three times in the Open Era has the top seed lost before the quarterfinals of the US Open, but the earliest loss of those came in the second round.

The other Top 10 seeds all advanced through in straight sets, namely No.4 seed Elena Dementieva, No.5 seed Jelena Jankovic, No.6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and No.9 seed Caroline Wozniacki. Other seeded players winning through were Nadia Petrova, Patty Schnyder, Zheng Jie, Sabine Lisicki, Sorana Cirstea, Alona Bondarenko and Maria Sharapova, who beat Tsvetana Pironkova in the feature night match comprehensively, 63 60.

"I played a tricky opponent who doesn't give you much of a rhythm," said the No.29-seeded Sharapova. "I had to stay on top of her and do the right things from the start. I had a slow start but once I got going, I was able to maintain that."

No.16 seed Virginie Razzano, No.27 seed Alisa Kleybanova and No.32 seed Agnes Szavay were all ousted in the day session, by Yanina Wickmayer, Petra Kvitova and Shahar Peer, respectively. The fourth and final upset of the day came at night, as Kateryna Bondarenko beat No.11 seed Ana Ivanovic, 26 63 76(7). Ivanovic had a match point leading 6-5 in the third set tie-break but Bondarenko hit a forcing shot that drew an error from the former No.1.

"I created a lot of chances for myself and I'm really disappointed I made a few mistakes in the important moments," said Ivanovic, who netted a forehand - her favorite shot - on the last point of the match. "My forehand let me down on a few occasions. Obviously it hurts."

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