MADRID, (Reuters) – Dinara Safina’s French Open preparations suffered a shock setback when she lost 7-6 7-6 to Czech qualifier Klara Zakopalova in the Madrid Open first round yesterday.
The Russian world number five, defending champion on the clay in the Spanish capital, was the latest big name to fall after grand slam winners Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova lost their first-round matches.
In a topsy-turvy encounter, Safina and Zakopalova, the world number 88, each claimed seven breaks of serve but the 28-year-old from Prague dominated the tiebreaks, winning the first 7-1 and the second 7-3.
Safina, who slipped from three to five in the updated rankings yesterday, has lost in the Roland Garros final the past two years and has yet to claim a grand slam title despite rising to the top of the rankings last year.
A pumped-up Serena Williams had to draw on all her battling qualities to get past Vera Dushevina into the third round, coming back from a set down and saving a match point for a 6-7 7-6 7-6 success.
The American world number one, who won her 12th grand slam title at January’s Australian Open before injury sidelined her for three months, looked to be on her way out when the unseeded Russian held a match point at 6-5 in the second set.