Serena suffers shock defeat

ROME: World no 2 Serena Williams suffered a surprise defeat by Patty Schnyder at the Italian Open on Tuesday.

After a rain-interrupted day, the pair did not get onto court until after 11pm local time and Schnyder eventually sealed a 6-2 2-6 6-1 win. Williams had described herself as "the real No 1" and "the best in the world" at a news conference on Monday. Dinara Safina, who replaced Williams at the top of the rankings last month, beat Virginie Razzano 7-6 (7-1) 6-1.

Williams, 27, was playing her first match in almost a month and appeared to be moving with difficulty at times. Schnyder had only won three of her previous 11 meetings with Williams but, tellingly, both their encounters on clay, including a victory in Rome two years ago. Williams has now lost her last three matches -- only the second time this has happened in her career.

Safina lost to 10-time Grand Slam champion Williams at the Australian Open in January and has been criticised in some quarters for achieving the top ranking without winning one of the four major titles. But the Russian, 23, insisted: "It's not luck. Nobody gave it to me -- I proved it. I played two Grand Slam finals, and last year I won four titles, so I think I belong to this, because this doesn't come out of the sky."

Third seed Jelena Jankovic went through after beating Argentine Gisela Dulko 6-3 7-6 (8-6), despite a four-hour rain break, while fifth seed and French Open champion Ana Ivanovic beat Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-4. "It's difficult when it rains and then you have to stop and focus again and start," said Serbia's Jankovic.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Safina to win the Stuttgart title on Sunday, saw off Daniela Hantuchova 6-3 6-3, and ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1 7-5.