2009 WTA Tour - LA WOMEN'S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS  Held at the Home Depot Center, Carson, Ca.
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WORLD NO. 1 DINARA DEFENDS HER TITLE, SHARAPOVA ADVANCES
By Kelly Richards


Dinara Safina (RUS)

Photos by Adam Davis

CARSON, CA - In a surprise announcement, Dinara Safina said she has been playing with an injury during the time she’s been ranked #1.

Wednesday at the Los Angeles Women’s Tennis Championships, she revealed she’s been playing with a bad left knee throughout the clay court season, the French Open and Wimbledon. Dinara said she was in so much agony from a loose muscle on top of her patella; she had to take large doses of anti-inflammatory medication. The cause? She said, her height.

Pain free, the only thing that caused Safina to sweat today was the Southern California sun.

The #1 ranked player on the tour matched up against Daniella Hantuchova, a Slovakian who is a former #5 and now slipped to #26.

The six-foot Russian with 145 pounds of honed muscle easily took the first set 6-2 but had a bit more trouble in the second 6-4. Each time she made a good shot or missed one, Safina turned to her coach sitting on the sidelines, either to celebrate or question. “I didn’t do anything spectacular. It was a solid match.”

With a wrapped thigh, Hantuchova might have been battling injury as well and maybe a bit of fatigue. Yesterday she played and won two matches at the Home Depot Center. The good news for Hantuchova is that she’s still in the running to win the doubles title with partner Ai Sugiyama of Japan. Sugiyama also lost her second round singles match today to 8th seed Agniezka Radwanska of Poland.

This is the 8th time, Safina and Hantuchova have gone head to head, and the fifth win for the Russian power hitter. “In the crucial moments I was more aggressive today.”

Safina is going for her second win in Los Angeles. Last year she beat Jelena Jankovic to take the title and put her on the road to the number 1 spot, a place she’s held for 12 weeks yet has never won a major tournament.

She took the top from Serena Williams who has 9 singles Grand Slam Titles, 7 doubles and two mixed. But neither Serena nor her sister opted to come to Carson this week, which is just a stones throw from their old neighborhood in Compton. She leads Serena 6881 points to 6077. With her win in LA today, Safina became the first player to qualify for the prestigious Sony Ericcson Championships in Qatar later this year.

Next on Safina’s hit list is 14th seed Jie Zheng of China. “She’s a dangerous player. I know what I have to do. I need to play my game and be aggressive.”

Sharapova Survives Third Seed Azarenka

Everything about this match was close. Close points. Close games. Close sets. Close tiebreaker. And very similar high-pitched squealing grunts.

Maria Sharapova  (RUS)

Maria Sharapova faced her first big challenge since returning to the tour after taking a year off for shoulder surgery. Her name: Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the 9th ranked woman in the world.

The crowd at the Los Angeles Women’s Tennis Championship in Carson on Wednesday night was thrilled to see the former number one, currently #61, back on the court in competitive condition.

The first indication Sharapova may be in trouble during the first set came in the third game. The Russian slugger was up 40-love only to lose the next five points and the game. The rest of the set was all about who could hold serve. Azarenko made a critical challenge on game point. Hawkeye showed her “out” serve was indeed “in”, tying the set 6-6.

Another nail biter in the first set tiebreaker. Azarenko was up a break 5-3 but it looked as if Sharapova might get it back after she came to the net to hit one of her signature swinging volleys. However, Azarenko anticipated the move and got the ball back for a winner and the set 7-6.

“I had so many chances to win the first set,” said Sharapova. “I needed extra focus to attack.

And attack she did. The second and third sets were altogether different stories. Both times, Sharapova came out swinging, quickly establishing a three game lead in each, frustrating Azarenko.

“My execution wasn’t there tonight,” she explained. “I just let go in the beginning of both sets and it was hard to comeback.”

Azarenko wasn’t the only one upset. Several crying babies in the crowd loudly voiced their displeasure.

“Everyone in Manhattan Beach is either pregnant or has a stroller,” Sharapova commented on the apparent “baby boom” in her nearby adopted hometown. “Even my grandmother in Russia could hear the baby.”

The babies were removed from the competition and so was Azarenko. Sharapova won the last two sets 6-4, 6-2.

And it looks as if she might have an easy road to the semi finals, except for one thing. Sharapova has a quick turnaround, scheduled to play tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon against 33rd ranked Alona Bondarenko of the Ukraine.

“This will be a good test, playing a night match and then coming back the next day during the day in the sun.”

 

RESULTS - WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2009

Singles - Second Round
(1) Dinara Safina (RUS) d. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 62 64
(5) Nadia Petrova (RUS) d. Shahar Peer (ISR) 64 26 63
Urszula Radwanska (POL) d. (7) Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) 64 67(6) 64
(8) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Ai Sugiyama (JPN) 62 61
(10) Flavia Pennetta (ITA) d. (WC) Coco Vandeweghe (USA) 62 64
(12) Li Na (CHN) d. Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) 46 64 62
(13) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 62 64
(14) Zheng Jie (CHN) d. Elena Vesnina (RUS) 64 46 60
(17) Sabine Lisicki (GER) d. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 61 64
Alona Bondarenko (UKR) d. Lucie Safarova (CZE) 57 64 75
Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) d. Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) 63 36 61
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. (Q) Jill Craybas (USA) 76(2) 61
Maria Sharapova, Russia, def. Victoria Azarenka, Belarus, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2
Sorana Cirstea, Romania, def. Caroline Wozniacki (4), Denmark, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5)

Doubles - First Round
(1) Stosur/Stubbs (AUS/AUS) d. Ruano Pascual/Zheng (ESP/CHN) 64 64
King/Niculescu (USA/ROU) d. (3) Pennetta/Raymond (ITA/USA) 75 63
(4) Hsieh/Peng (TPE/CHN) d. Poutchek/Savchuk (BLR/UKR) 62 63
Kirilenko/A.Radwanska (RUS/POL) d. Kudryavtseva/Rodionova (RUS/RUS) 62 46 104

 
About the Tournament

The LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife, in its 39th year, is one of the most historic events in women’s tennis and is being held for the sixth consecutive year at The Home Depot Center. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Premier event offers prize money of $700,000 to the 56-player singles and 16-team doubles draws. The distinguished tournament champions list includes Dinara Safina, Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, all of whom have also been ranked No. 1 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour during their careers.

The LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife is part of the prestigious Olympus US Open Series, which links nine summer hard-court tournaments to the famed U.S. Open. This year’s tournament marks the sixth year players competing in the U.S. Open Series tournaments will be vying for bonus prize money at the U.S. Open. Players competing in the “summer season” of tennis at the participating Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournaments will receive Olympus U.S. Open Series points, which will ultimately earn the series winner the opportunity to double her U.S. Open prize purse.
 

 


 

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