TOKYO: World number one Dinara Safina tumbled out of the Pan Pacific Open yesterday at the hands of unheralded teenage qualifier Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan.
Chang, ranked a lowly 132 in the world, saw off the defending champion, who received a first-round bye with the other top seven seeds, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 7-5 to leave the Russian star down and out.
French Open champion and fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova joined Safina on a high-profile round two casualty list as she crashed to Andrea Petkovic, the German prevailing 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
Wimbledon finalist Venus Williams became the latest victim when the American second seed went down to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-6 (8-6), 7-5.
Crowd-favourite Maria Sharapova, also of Russia, the 2005 champion here, safely went through to the second round, though she needed a tough two hours and 22 minutes to beat Francesca Schiavone of Italy 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
“It is disappointing that I didn’t play the way I should play in the match. Although I still turned the match around, I had lots of chances in the third set but I just let it go,” Safina said.
“I think she played great tennis, I just didn’t do my tennis on court. She was always on the ball, she was always in her comfort zone. I never threw her out of her comfort zone so it was my fault.”
Chang, 18, who beat Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in the first round, hit an array of lightning service returns as she chalked up a shock 3-0 lead in the opening set.
Safina clawed back and managed to force a tie-break, but she was unable to clinch the set.
The 23-year-old again fell behind 0-2 in the second set, but hit some winners from the baseline to put the match even at one set apiece.
Chang came back from a service break down twice in the final set and took a 6-5 and 0-40 lead on the Russian’s service in the 12th game.
Chang mis-fired a backhand on her first two match points, but Safina’s forehand went long on the third to finish off the match in two hours, 44 minutes. — AFP
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