x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Kai-chen sinks world No 1

Dinara Safina succumbed 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 to Taiwanese qualifier Chang Kai-chen in the second round.

Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan show her delight after coming back from being a match point down to stun the world No 1 player Dinara Safina of Russia during their second round match at the Pan Pacific Open.
Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan show her delight after coming back from being a match point down to stun the world No 1 player Dinara Safina of Russia during their second round match at the Pan Pacific Open.

Dinara Safina continues to wear the crown of world No 1 without conviction. The enigmatic Russian, yet to win a major title, was an embarrassingly early casualty in the Pan Pacific Open yesterday, succumbing 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 to Taiwanese qualifier Chang Kai-chen in the second round. This latest slip-up by Safina, who was a top-seeded flop at the US Open, supplies further ammunition to those, principally the American Williams sisters, who consider her unworthy of the leading position.

Venus Williams, now the top-ranked player at the US$2million (Dh 7.34m) tournament in Tokyo, is hoping to capitalise on the departure of Safina as she builds up towards her defence of the season-ending Tour championships in Doha. "I love winning the big titles -  it's what we work for," said Venus who has seven grand slam titles, four fewer than her little sister Serena but seven more than the hapless Safina.

"There are still two or three tournaments left this year. Then I'll take time off - you got to take time off to be any good at tennis." Safina has had more time off than she would like over the last month and despite her efforts to talk down the defeat by 18-year-old Chang, she was distraught at another squandered opportunity. The defending champion is desperate to break her grand slam duck having lost in three finals. Safina served in vain for the match against her 132nd-ranked opponent and handed back the initiative with the most untimely of double faults. She lamented: "Whether it's a double fault or any other mistake, it's the same. It's just the way I played at 5-4. It wasn't the right game. I had a lot of chances and just let it go."

"This is not an easy moment but that's sport. I didn't play well in the match today." Safina, who has added three Tour titles this year to the four she collected in 2008, felt she was let down by her first serve against the tenacious Chang who reflected: "When I got to match point I just tried to treat it like any other point."  Caroline Wozniacki, runner-up to Kim Clijsters at Flushing Meadows, is now favourite to emerge from Safina's half of the draw into the final against Venus, who is scheduled to meet Russia's Elena Dementieva in the semi-finals.

wjohnson@thenational.ae