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Safina Wins Opener, First Round Wraps Up

Dinara Safina won in straight sets while Urszula Radwanska and Elena Baltacha dug deep.

Published March 10, 2011 12:00

Safina Wins Opener, First Round Wraps Up
Dinara Safina

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Former No.1 Dinara Safina continued to show flashes of her former brilliance in the feature night match Thursday, beating recent Acapulco finalist Arantxa Parra Santonja handily in the first round.

Watch live coverage from Indian Wells starting Saturday on TennisTV!

Safina, ranked 48 spots lower than Parra Santonja at No.108, started off slowly by losing the first two games but quickly found her range again, never losing her serve again en route to a 63 63 victory over the No.60-ranked Spaniard.

Last week in Kuala Lumpur, Safina snapped out of a six-match losing streak with a first round win (eventually falling in the second round to Lucie Safarova) and also picked up her first WTA title of any kind in over a year and a half, taking the doubles at the $220,000 tournament with Galina Voskoboeva.

"I'm getting more and more positive," Safina commented. "I'm working day by day and trying to get better, and with the hard work I believe I will get better.

"Nobody forgets how to play."

In particular, Safina showed some of the classic aggression that took her all the way to No.1 in the world for 26 weeks in 2009. "There's no other choice," the Russian said of going for her shots in important moments. "Even if I miss, I know I have to do it. If I run and run from the baseline I'm going to lose the points anyway, so I have to go inside the baseline and go for the winners."

Next up for Safina is No.26 seed Daniela Hantuchova, one of only two players in this year's draw to have won this title two or more times (the other is Kim Clijsters). Safina leads Hantuchova in their head-to-head series, 6-4.

Earlier in the day, Sloane Stephens set up a second round clash with No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki by beating fellow American Jamie Hampton, 62 64.

"I love the courts here at Indian Wells. I love everything about it here," Stephens said. "Caroline is a really great girl. We always talk - she's so nice. It's good to have that connection. But it'll definitely be a competitive match. It'll be fun."

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the highest-ranked American in the field, will be featured on ESPN's Rome Is Burning on Friday - click here for more info!

Urszula Radwanska and Elena Baltacha both scored dramatic wins, coming from match point down to reach the second round. Radwanska was the first to do so, fending one off down 6-5 in the third set tie-break to survive Bojana Jovanovski, 36 64 76(6); Baltacha followed by saving four match points down 62 54 and eventually cruising past Roberta Vinci in the third, 26 75 62.

"I always fight as hard as I can because you never know," Baltacha said. "When I was down I was thinking to dig in and it's amazing what you can do when you just keep believing and battling away. I executed really well on those points."

Other winners were Peng Shuai, Ekaterina Makarova, Agnes Szavay, Iveta Benesova, Anna Chakvetadze, Simona Halep, Anabel Medina Garrigues, Sofia Arvidsson, qualifiers Zhang Shuai, Lucie Hradecka and Laura Pous-Tio and wildcard Christina McHale. Szavay, who was playing her first match of the year after struggling with illness and injury, defeated Jill Craybas, 63 63.

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