INDIAN WELLS, California // Dinara Safina's quest for the world No 1 ranking looked in danger as she fought off three set points before beating Tina Pironkova 7-6 (8), 6-2 on Friday in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open. Safina can replace Serena Williams at the top of the WTA Tour rankings by reaching the final of this 12-day event. Williams, who beat the Russian in the Australian Open final six weeks ago, is not playing here. The Bulgarian Pironkova had three set points in the first-set tiebreaker before Safina asserted herself in the second set.
"I'm just going to focus on myself at this tournament," Safina said, "but that (being No 2) is the reward for the success that I've had this year. I've played in three tournaments and been in two finals. There is only one person in front of me and this is something big." Safina, who lost in the third round here the past two years, will face No 28 seed Shuai Peng of China in the third round and will potentially have a semi-final against Vera Zvonareva, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Yung-Jan Chan of Taipei.
In a late match, Urszula Radwanska of Poland ousted the No 6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. Amelie Mauresmo, coming back from yet another of the injuries that have plagued her in recent years, advanced to the third round with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Mauresmo, No 1 on the WTA Tour for a total of 39 weeks in the past but out of the top 20 last season for the first time in 10 years, got her first tournament victory in two years by beating Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva at the Paris Indoors. Her match against Groenefeld, of Germany, was her first since then.
It was a good day for the locals, with eight American men winning through to the second round, including Sam Querrey and Taylor Dent. Germany's Michael Berrer beat the South African Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3 to set up a second-round match against world No 1 Rafael Nadal. Argentina's Martin Vassallo Arguello also beat a South African opponent, edging Rik de Voest 7-5, 7-6 and will next face the defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia, seeded third. Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, the No 5 seed, announced his withdrawal due to a left heel injury, putting his scheduled opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany directly into the third round.