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Venus and Safina stunned in Pan Pacific Open

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:45

World No.1 Dinara Safina was reduced to tears after falling to a shock 7-6(5) 4-6 7-5 defeat at the hands of qualifier Chang Kai-Chen in her first match at the Pan Pacific Open.

The Russian, defending champion at the Tokyo event, had received a bye to the second round as the tournament’s top seed, but handed her Taiwanese opponent a break with a double fault when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third.

In a tournament full of upsets after just two days, Wimbledon finalist Venus Williams became the latest victim when the No.2 seed crashed out to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6(6) 7-5.

2005 champion Maria Sharapova eventually went through to the second round, after a tough three-set encounter against Francesca Schiavone 4-6 7-5 6-1.

No.5 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova lost 7-5 4-6 6-3 to Andrea Petkovic in the day’s other shock result, while Ai Sugiyama was forced to retire in the final singles match of her career.

On Sunday Lucie Safarova dumped Ana Ivanovic out of the draw with a 6-4 7-6(1) in the first round.

But another defeat for Safina, the latest in a string of high-profile losses since she assumed the world No.1 ranking in April, was just too much for the 23-year-old to bear. The Russian sat in tears on the steps of the players lounge after talking to reporters following the match.

“It’s not an easy moment,” she said. “I had a lot of chances in the third set but I just let it go. The way I played the game at 5-4 was not right.

“It’s so disappointing I didn’t play the way I should have played. I never took her out of her comfort zone.”

Safina’s position at the top of the rankings has been called into question as she has yet to win a grand slam title, having exited each of the three majors since assuming top spot in tame fashion.

After a comprehensive defeat in the French Open final against Kuznetsova and an emphatic Wimbledon semi-final loss to Venus Williams, she then lost to the unheralded Petra Kvitova in the third round of the US Open in her last outing.

Chang, the world No.132, claimed the marathon match – nearly two hours and 45 minutes long – and a showdown with Gisela Dulko in the third round.

“I never came into the match thinking I was going to lose badly,” said the 18-year-old. “I just wanted to play tough.

“I was jumping up and down at the end thinking about my mum. She never watches me play but she watches the live scores (on the Internet) so I was wondering what she was thinking.”

Ai Sugiyama couldn’t hide her disappointment after being forced to retire when trailing 6-0 2-1 to No.13 seed Russian Nadia Petrova in her last-ever singles match.

The Japanese 34-year-old had felt ill on Sunday and was determined to play, but couldn’t get through to the end of the match.

“I was looking forward to my final match, and I was able to bring myself mentally up to this point,” said the 34-year-old, who will play doubles with Daniela Hantuchova later in the week. “It is very disappointing to end like this.”

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