MIAMI: Anna Kournikova added another first-round defeat to her growing collection when she surrendered in straight sets to Russian Dinara Safina in the Nasdaq-100 Open on Thursday.
Kournikova, a Miami resident whose world ranking has slipped to 66 from a high of eight three years ago, looked well out of sorts in the 6-1, 6-4 loss despite having the support of most of the noisy Stadium Court crowd.
After dropping the first set easily, Kournikova battled back to a 3-1 lead in the second, but could not maintain the momentum and dropped her next two service games.
After breaking back to 4-5, Kournikova's service failed her again and although she saved two match points before a wicked passing shot from Safina ended the match on the third.
Kournikova has won only one singles match on the tour this year, in the Australian Open in January, the last tournament she played.
She has previously enjoyed success in the Miami tournament, losing the 1998 final to Venus Williams and reaching the fourth round on three other occasions.
Earlier, Meilen Tu was treated for heat exhaustion after a three-hour marathon in blistering Stadium Court heat in the day session.
The American overcame a spirited challenge from wild-card entrant Bethanie Mattek to win 6-1, 6-7, 7-6 but collapsed shortly afterwards and was taken off on a stretcher.
“I was hyper-ventilating, couldn't breathe and kind of collapsed,” said Tu, who with her fellow American Mattek was given a standing ovation after their epic match played in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Everything shut down after I shook the umpire's hand. I started feeling the heat in the middle of the second set, but it really hit me hard in the third.
“The trainer came over as I was cramping, and I was getting worse and worse,” Tu added.
The player said she would be fit to continue, and has a day to recover before her second-round match against the 13th-seeded Bulgarian Magdalena Maleeva on Saturday.
Carly Gullickson confirmed her status among America's rising talent by ousting South Africa's Joannette Kruger in three sets on the Grandstand Court.
Gullickson, 16, a wild card entrant ranked only 344th in the world, won 2-6 6-3 6-2 and secured a second-round tie against 12th seed Chanda Rubin.
Serena Williams opens her title defence against Francesca Schiavone of Italy. – Reuters