Door No.1 Opens for Serena

With Zhang Shuai's upset of Dinara Safina on Monday, Serena Williams needs one more win.

Published October 05, 2009 12:00

Door No.1 Opens for Serena
Zhang Shuai

BEIJING, China - With the biggest on-paper upset in Sony Ericsson WTA Tour history Dinara Safina may have relinquished the No.1 ranking on Monday, as the Russian lost to No.226-ranked Zhang Shuai at the China Open.

Safina, who is currently spending her 25th career week at the top spot, had suffered several surprising losses over the last few months, most recently falling to Chang Kai-Chen, who was ranked No.132, in her opening match in Tokyo last week. But Zhang is now the lowest-ranked player ever to beat a reigning No.1, bettering the No.188 ranking held by Julie Coin as the Frenchwoman outdid Ana Ivanovic at last year's US Open. Safina had her chances as well, leading by a break early on in both sets and even holding set point in the second set.

"I'm having some bad losses. So many matches that are very close, ones I should win, having set points or match points every time," Safina said. "It's very disappointing, I'd like to take a break now. I'm very upset with myself."

If Serena Williams wins her match against Ekaterina Makarova on Tuesday, she will return to No.1. Safina assumed the top spot from Williams on April 20; Williams has been at No.1 for 72 non-consecutive weeks in her career.

Zhang had never won a main draw match on Tour before this week, beating No.33-ranked Iveta Benesova in the first round prior to the win over Safina. The Chinese, 20 years old, does have 12 titles to her name on the ITF Circuit.

The upsets didn't stop there, as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova notched a second round win over No.3 seed Venus Williams, 36 61 64. It was Pavlyuchenkova's second straight win over the American, having beaten her in the same round of Tokyo a week ago - she is the second player ever to beat her in back-to-back weeks (Lindsay Davenport achieved the feat in the summer of 2004).

"She played really well. Unfortunately I was making errors too soon in the points," Williams said. "Twelve double faults didn't help me today, but I wasn't counting. I think she plays well against everyone she plays. Usually I do too."

Winners in other second rounds were No.6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, No.16 seed Li Na, Aleksandra Wozniak and Alona Bondarenko. Kuznetsova needed just 48 minutes to beat Anabel Medina Garrigues, 62 61.

"Anabel didn't play her best, but I played a good match and had fun out there, and that's important," Kuznetsova said. "I feel much better in Beijing. I enjoy playing here. My matches will only get tougher so I'll have to be prepared."

The last first round wins went to No.13 seed Nadia Petrova, Daniela Hantuchova, Francesca Schiavone, Alisa Kleybanova and Vania King, a lucky loser into the main draw.  Interview: Daniela Hantuchova

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