/ 1 May 2009

Steamroller Safina impresses on her way to the quarters

World number one Dinara Safina made light work of Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova as she needed just over an hour to reach the quarterfinals of the WTA tournament in Stuttgart on Thursday.

Having blasted her way past Italy’s Sara Errani 6-0, 6-1 in the first round, Safina was barely troubled by Hantuchova as she won her second round game 6-4, 6-2 and will play eighth-seed Agnieszka Radwanska in Friday’s quarter-final.

”We have had some close matches in the past and I did well today,” said Safina who had lost her three previous meetings to Hantuchova and her win here levels the tally now at 3-3.

Radwanska had no problems booking her quarter-final place with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.

Earlier defending champion Jelena Jankovic had to battle her way into the last eight as crowd-favourite Sabine Lisicki went down fighting.

The 19-year-old German, ranked 42nd in the world, broke the former world number one in the second set and pushed her all the way before losing 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 and was rewarded with a standing ovation when she finally bowed out.

Having lost the first set 7-5, Lisicki showed tremendous mental strength by fighting back from 4-2 down to take the second 7-5 using her forehand to devastating effect.

In the end, she hit 18 winning shots off her forehand, compared to Jankovic’s two, and smashed five aces to her opponent’s one.

But Jankovic, the third seed and fourth in the world, showed her class when she fought back from 40-0 down, on her own serve, at 3-3 in the third set to win the game and ultimately the match.

”She gave me a hard time,” said a breathless Jankovic after the two hours 13 minute match.

”She played really great and she served really well, she was hitting her serves hard — between 180km/h and 190km/h — and not many girls can do that.

”I am just pleased to have got through the match.” In the quarterfinal, Jankovic will play Italy’s Flavia Pennetta after she beat sixth-seed Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-2 just before midnight.

Earlier Olympic champion Elena Dementieva booked her place in the last eight with a straight sets win over Hungary’s Agnes Szavay.

The 27-year-old Russian pin-up, who is the second seed here, came back from 4-1 down in the first set to win the tie-break which broke her 20-year-old opponent’s spirit as the Beijing gold medallist won 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.

”I really had a slow start, it was tough to come back from 4-1 down,” said Dementieva.

”I won the tie-break and she was very disappointed about that.”

She didn’t fight so hard in the second set.

”I am still finding my feet on clay court and my footwork needs to improve.”

Dementieva will play France’s Marion Bartoli for a place in the semifinal after the 24-year-old knocked out seventh-seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 but she had to work all the way.

”I knew she has a great backhand and it is always tough to play Caroline, I have never beaten her before,” said Bartoli, who is now three games from the tournament winner’s prize of a brand-new Porsche sports car.

And Bartoli, 13th in the world rankings, said she is looking forward to facing world number three Dementieva again having beaten her twice, and lost to her twice, in 2007.

”The last time I played Elena on clay, I beat her at the French Open, she has improved since then, but so have I.

”If I play like I did today I have a chance to beat her.”

Fifth-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova will play Argentina’s Gisela Dulko in the quarter-final after beating China’s Li Na as the Russian recovered from losing the first set to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

”It was all about keeping the faith,” said Kuznetsova.

”Things were cool from the second set onwards, I was hitting the ball well and I enjoyed myself.” — Sapa-AFP