Monday, August 11, 2008

Safina resists Santangelo challenge in Olympic opener

BEIJING, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- No. 6 seed Dinara Safina from Russia defeated fellow Olympic debutant Mara Santangelo from Italy 6-3, 7-6(1) in her first round match of the tennis event on Monday.

Santangelo, who struggled with her serve in the opening set, provided the in-form Russian with a challenge in the second set, recovering from a 3-0 deficit to push Safina to a tie-break.

The Italian, ranked 176th in the world, broke Safina in the fourth and eighth games of the second set to level the score at 4-4. Santangelo became more confident with her forehand, producing 10 winners to Safina's four, and relied on her doubles expertise to gain points at the net.

Safina, on the other hand, produced 13 aces but gave away points by serving six doubles faults in the whole match.

"In the second set, I was up double breaks, I shouldn't have made so many double faults in those moments," Safina said after thematch. "I think that, for the first round and coming from the United States with these weather conditions, it was a pretty good match."

Safina raced to 7-1 in the tirbreak as the Italian increased her tally of unforced errors in the second set to 38.

Santangelo conveted all three of her break point opportunities in the match, even closing down Safina's 2 -0 advantage in the first set by breaking in the third game.

Safina has now extended her match-winning streak to 11, having won her last two tournaments at Los Angeles and Montreal. She faces Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez from Spain in the second round.