Safina, Schnyder Early Winners in Toronto

Posted on August 14, 2007

TORONTO, Canada - The seeds in the draw for the Rogers Cup presented by American Express made a promising start to the $1,340,000 Tier I event on Monday, as all six emerged victorious from their first round clashes at the Rexall Center. No.9 seed Dinara Safina was the highest ranked player on display and she made a stuttering start to the tournament, squeezing past French qualifier Camille Pin in three tough sets. The young Russian was joined in the second round by fellow seeds Patty Schnyder, Shahar Peer, Tatiana Golovin, Katarina Srebotnik and Lucie Safarova, who advanced in contrasting fashions on the opening day in Canada.

After a magnificent start to 2007, which saw the Russian No.5 capture her fifth career title on the hardcourts of the Gold Coast, Safina has enjoyed a solid, if not spectacular, year on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour - finishing runner-up in Charleston, semifinalist in 's-Hertogenbosch as well as quarterfinal runs at five other events. However, when she trailed 4-1 in the final set on Day 1 in Toronto, the world No.14 looked all set for a shock exit, but she displayed all her battling qualities to take six of the next seven games and book a spot in the second round. The 21-year-old Muscovite's 76(9) 36 75 win was her fourth victory over Pin this season and she will hope the spirited performance will help revive memories of an impressive semifinal run at the Rogers Cup 12 months ago.

"It's difficult to play against Camille," Safina said, "because she runs so well and whenever you give her more angle, she just gives you more angle back. So you have to be really patient and wait for the right shot. Today I adapted my game well and started to wait for the right ball to go for. It wasn't my best tennis, but I fought hard and got the win."

No.10 seed Schnyder enjoyed a rather more routine victory in Toronto, breezing past Anabel Medina Garrigues in straight sets. The 28-year-old Swiss star has made a seamless transition to the hardcourts this summer, reaching quarterfinals in Cincinnati and Stanford, before an impressive runner-up finish at the Tier I event in San Diego and her 63 62 win over the experienced Spaniard was her 33rd of a promising campaign. Schnyder's reward for this authoritative display is a second round meeting with Italian qualifier Flavia Pennetta, who saw off Russian teenager Olga Poutchkova, 63 75.

Two other seeds who had the luxury of straight-set first round victories were Peer and Golovin. No.12 seed Golovin was in imperious form as she breezed past Julia Vakulenko, 62 61, while No.11 Peer was made to work considerably harder before edging past Michaella Krajicek, 75 76(7). Next up for Frenchwoman Golovin will be the in-form teenager, Dominika Cibulkova, who defeated fellow qualifier Angelika Bachmann, 62 64, while Israel's Peer will face Tathiana Garbin who dismissed lucky loser Laura Granville, 62 60.

"At the start I was moving badly and making so many mistakes," Peer said, "but slowly I started to move and hit the ball better and I'm glad to get through against such a good player like Micha. I've lost a few close matches in the last few weeks, so I'm happy to win a really tough first rounder and I have to keep improving from here."

Other seeds to secure second round berths in the capital of Ontario were Srebotnik and Safarova, although both players dropped a set on their way to victory. No.14 seed, Srebotnik made a slow start to her match, but upped her level after dropping the opening set to defeat Kateryna Bondarenko, 57 62 62. The Slovene No.1 made it all the way to the quarterfinals at last year's Rogers Cup and if she wants to repeat the performance she will first have to overcome China's Peng Shuai, a 60 67(4) 62 opening day winner over Caroline Wozniacki.

Czech starlet Safarova is this week's No.16 seed and will be pleased to have come through a tough first round ordeal against qualifier Varvara Lepchenko, 64 67(2) 61.

After Garbin and Pennetta's triumphs, Roberta Vinci and Francesca Schiavone ensured it was a clean sweep for the Italian contingent in Canada, with two more impressive wins. Schiavone overcame a second set blip to record a credible, 62 26 63, win over the prodigiously gifted Austrian teenager, Tamira Paszek, while Vinci produced arguably the performance of the day to crush Nuria Llagostera Vives, 60 60 in just 47 minutes.

The doubles competition this week promises to be a fascinating one and the Rexall Centre crowds were treated to some entertaining encounters in the first round. No.7 seeds Schiavone and Vinci rounded off a great day for Italy when they saw off a spirited display from the Canadian wildcard pairing of Valerie Tétreault and Aleksandra Wozniak. Joining them in the second round will be the unseeded teams of Emilie Loit and Meilen Tu and Andrea Ehritt-Vanc and Anastasia Rodionova who were also straight-set victors on Monday. (WTA)