Safina, Venus crash out; Djokovic advances

BEIJING: Top seed Dinara Safina of Russia became the second major upset victim at the China Open on Monday, losing in straight sets to virtually unknown Chinese wild card entrant Zhang Shuai.

The 20-year-old Zhang, ranked just 226th in the world, thrilled the partisan crowd at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Beijing by pulling off the second-round win over the raven-haired Russian, 7-5, 7-6 (7/5). Safina, who will lose her number one world ranking to Serena Williams if the American advances past the second round here, struggled with her serve throughout the match, with a total of 13 double faults.

The second set was a battle of wills, but the 23-year-old Safina, slamming balls and screaming in frustration, could not steel her nerves, repeatedly failing to consolidate her breaks of Zhang’s serve

by surrendering her own. Zhang served for the match at 5-4 but the Russian battled back to 5-5 and then into a tiebreak. But the Chinese player again proved the stronger of the pair, closing it out with a winner down the line, to the roar of the crowd.

Earlier, American tennis superstar Venus Williams crashed out, losing for the second week in a row to talented Russian teen Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Williams, the third seed, was looking to avenge her

loss to the 18-year-old

Russian at last week’s Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, but she never found her rhythm against Pavlyuchenkova, who won the second-round match 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

On the men’s side of the draw, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the number two seed, dropped his serve once early against Romania’s Victor Hanescu but worked out his jitters to take the match in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5. Djokovic, who preceded Williams on centre court, mixed up his slice and two-handed topspin backhands to keep Hanescu on the back foot, and earned some easy points with 10 aces.

In other first-round, Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 6-1, despite the big-serving Croat’s 27 aces. France’s Julien Benneteau advanced, beating Brazil’s Marcos

Daniel 6-3, 6-4.

On the women’s side of the $6.6-million event, sixth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia advanced into the round of 16, beating Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-2, 6-1. In first-round play, Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova eased past Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 7-5, 6-2 and American Vania King defeated Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva, 6-4, 6-3.