A comparatively insignificant victory in the second round of the China Open turned into a major celebration for Serena Williams yesterday. The straight-sets passage against Russia's Ekaterina Makarova meant the powerful American, a severe critic of the WTA rankings system in recent months, regained the world No 1 position from the beleaguered and much-maligned Dinara Safina.
Serena has been arguing vehemently of late that the more mundane tournaments on the calendar carry too much weight in rewarding those who win them with excessive ranking points. She believes that grand slams - she has won 11 of them - should count far more than they do and she is by no means without support on that issue.
It is ironic, therefore, that she should overhaul Safina, a shock first round loser in Beijing on Monday, in this manner and it would be an equally wry turn of events if she should have the top spot taken away from her by any punishment preventing her from defending her Australian Open title in January.
That remains a possibility as Serena continues to be investigated by the International Tennis Federation for her shameful behaviour at the US Open last month when she uttered a succession of foul-mouthed obscenities at a female line judge which led to her losing her semi-final against the eventual champion Kim Clijsters.
Jelena Jankovic, the Serbian former world No 1 player who was the runner-up last weekend to Russia's Maria Sharapova in Tokyo, was the day's biggest casualty, losing 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to the home favourite Peng Shuai. Jankovic followed Safina and Venus Williams through the early exit door. In the men's event, the top-seeded Spaniard and former world No 1 Rafael Nadal was given a scare by Marcos Baghdatis, of Cyprus, before squeezing through 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. firstname.lastname@example.org