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Monday, August 3, 2009
Safina defends No. 1 ranking

ESPN.com news services

CARSON, Calif. -- Dinara Safina hasn't run into Serena Williams lately. She has heard what the Wimbledon champion and others have had to say about her qualifications to be the top-ranked player on the WTA Tour.

"Ranking is ranking. I didn't do the ranking system," said Safina, the defending champion at the L.A. Women's Tennis Championships that got under way Monday.

Safina and the other top seeds had the day off, leaving the spotlight to Maria Sharapova, who defeated Jarmila Groth of Slovakia 6-0, 6-4 late Monday night.

Still working to strengthen her serve following shoulder surgery last year, three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova was at times inconsistent in the second set, but more lethal off the ground.

"Her game plan was to attack from every single angle she could," said Sharapova, who lost in the quarterfinals of the Stanford Classic last week to Venus Williams.

"But she wasn't able to do that consistently because I was able to retrieve and make her hit more balls."

Sharapova will face third seed Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

Flavia Pennetta of Italy, last year's runner-up and the No. 10 seed, beat Varvara Lepchenko of the United States 6-2, 5-7, 6-0.

However, it wasn't a good day for the other seeded players. Anna Chakvetadze of Russia beat No. 11 Virginie Razzano of France 7-6 (5), 6-3; Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic ousted No. 15 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 7-6 (4); and qualifier Jill Craybas of the U.S. upset No. 16 Francesca Schiavone of Italy 7-6 (7), 6-2.

Safina just answered questions pleasantly.

"If she [Williams] has some questions she can give those questions to the WTA, who is doing the ranking system," Safina said. "It's just the result of how you play the whole year, not just the four Grand Slams. I've been playing the whole year and I've been having great results all through the Grand Slams. If she has some questions she can go to the WTA."

Safina, 21, was No. 9 in the rankings when she won this event a year ago. She won two more tournaments, was the silver medalist in the Olympics and a semifinalist at the U.S. Open (where she lost to Williams) and compiled a 22-7 record that included losses to Venus and Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva in the Tour Championships.

She started this year No. 3, ascended to No. 1 on April 20 and has a 47-9 record that includes three titles, four finals and two semifinals. But she lost to Serena 6-0, 6-3 in the Australian Open final and to Venus 6-0, 6-1 in the Wimbledon semifinals.

Serena Williams had said before Wimbledon that everyone knew who the real No. 1 was. After winning her third Grand Slam in the past year she wondered aloud how she could not be No. 1 on the WTA computer and said, sarcastically, that "Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1, she won Rome and Madrid."

Safina said she doesn't feel any urgency to win a Grand Slam, that "it's just a matter of time and one day it will happen."

When told that Jelena Jankovic said last week that to be No. 1 "you have to be beating the Williams sisters," Safina smiled and shrugged and said, again, "the ranking system is not only if you beat Serena Williams and Venus Williams. It's based on how you play the whole year, and what is their record."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.