BEIJING, (Reuters) – World number one Dinara Safina was upset 7-5 7-6 by local wild card Zhang Shuai in the second round of the China Open yesterday, leaving Serena Williams one victory away from reclaiming top spot in the rankings.
Serena’s sister Venus, the world number three, also had a bad day, losing to Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the second week in a row, this time 3-6 6-1 6-4.
Serena just needs to beat Ekaterina Makarova in her second round match at the Olympic tennis centre on Tuesday to move up from number two after Safina crumbled in the face of a fierce onslaught from the 226th ranked Zhang.
Safina, who lost her opening match at last week’s Pan Pacific Open to a qualifier, made 20 unforced errors and 12 double faults before leaving the centre court in tears. Her post-match news conference was cancelled.
“I’m just having some bad losses right now,” the Russian said in a statement released by organisers.
“So many matches that are very close, ones that I should win, having set points or match points every time. It’s very disappointing. I would like to take a break now, and I’m very upset with myself.”
Zhang, 20, had won the first WTA main draw match of her career in the first round on Sunday.
“I wasn’t thinking about the result, I was just thinking about learning as much as I could from her,” she said. “She was not on her best form, she was impatient and made lots of mistakes.”
Pavlyuchenkova, the world number 39 dominated the final two sets of the match to claim her second win over seven-times grand slam winner Venus after last Monday’s upset in Tokyo.
“She played really well, unfortunately sometimes I made errors too soon in the play,” Williams, 29, said in a brief news conference.
Williams began well but got an inkling of the fight that was to come when her 18-year-old opponent took her to six deuces as she was serving for the first set.
“She started way aggressive today. She wanted to kill me, I guess,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I had nothing to lose. I just tried to move her around as much as I could, just hit as hard as I could in the court and just enjoy the match.”