April 30, 2009

And She's Off!

Dinara Safina took the courts at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany this week for the first time since she wrested the #1 ranking from Serena Williams, and from the start she was out to show that she'd earned the position. She only lost one game against thirty-seventh ranked Sara Errani in the first round, not even spending an hour on the court.

But that didn't mean everything went as planned.

With so many of the best players entered in the event, the draws were terribly stacked, and there were bound to be some sparks. Former #1 Jelena Jankovic faced current #17 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, and Flavia Pennetta took on fellow top twenty-fiver Anna Chakvetadze in her first match.

Neither had much trouble with the lower-ranked player, though three-time titlist Victoria Azarenka was upset by a strong Gisela Dulko. And Sabine Lisicki, who shocked the world earlier this month with a victory over Venus Williams on the way to her first career championship in Charleston, took out top-twenty veteran Patty Schnyder in straight sets.

There's still plenty of time for even more fireworks in Stuttgart today. Agnes Szavay, who struggled early in the year but beat Ana Ivanovic in Miami, could prove to be difficult for Elena Dementieva. And Marion Bartoli, who seems to be resurging this year, will provide a good matchup for Caroline Wozniacki.

But we know that the race to the finish isn't a sprint -- hopefully these strong starts in Stuttgart won't fade out before the semis.

It'll be nice to see a show.

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