Serena Williams regains No. 1 ranking with win at China Open, Sharapova advances

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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BEIJING - Serena Williams is headed back to the top.
Williams needed only to win her second-round match at the China Open on Tuesday to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, because the current top-ranked player, Dinara Safina, couldn't get past that early round at the tournament.
Coming in, Williams had to fare better than Safina in Beijing to move to the top of the rankings next week. Safina lost to local wild card entry Zhang Shuai in the second round Monday.
Williams then needed just over one hour for a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.
"It feels pretty good. I'm really excited, I guess," Williams said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, but I'm obviously happy to be there because I feel like I've been working so hard all year and just happy to be back."
Safina's loss made No. 226 Zhang the lowest-ranked woman to defeat a No. 1. Julie Coin of France was ranked 188th when she beat then-No. 1 Ana Ivanovic at the 2008 U.S. Open.
"I would like to take some break now. ... I'm very upset with myself," Safina said.
In other action, Maria Sharapova rallied for a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5 win over Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, and Peng Shuai of China upset defending champion Jelena Jankovic 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia beat Melinda Czink of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-3.
In men's play, defending champion Andy Roddick lost to Polish qualifier Lucasz Kubot 6-2, 6-4, and top-seeded Rafael Nadal had a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over Cypriot wild card Marcos Baghdatis.
Williams has spent a total of 72 weeks as No. 1, including from Feb. 2 to Apr. 19 this year. The American said her focus for the rest of the year would be the WTA Tour Championships in Doha at the end of October.
"This is a tough part of the year. It's kind of toward the end and everybody's bodies are starting to ache, you're really fighting and you just do your best," she said.
Sharapova, who last week won the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo for her first tournament victory since returning from a 10-month injury layoff, recovered from a 5-2 deficit in the final set, winning five games in a row as ninth-ranked Azarenka struggled.
After winning the second-set tiebreaker, Azarenka broke Sharapova three times to take a commanding lead. The tide turned in the eighth game, when Sharapova won a break of her own.
"I knew that if I just kept steady and maybe I got an extra ball back and kept going for it and being aggressive, maybe good things will happen," Sharapova said. "And today they did, and I certainly felt like I stepped it up when I needed to.
"I realized I certainly don't want to be going home. I don't want to be leaving China that soon, so I just went for it. I kept being aggressive and I stayed positive - I think that gets you a long way."
Jankovic, who retired in last week's Tokyo final, said her arm and wrist still bother her. She said it was especially apparent in the third set.
"I couldn't hit the ball hard enough," she said.
Roddick got an early flight home after his first-round loss.
"I was trying stuff out there and nothing seemed to be working too well," Roddick said.
James Blake of the United States will stick around longer. He stopped Florian Mayer of Germany 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Safina's older brother, Marat Safin, enjoyed support from the Chinese fans on his way to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jose Acasuso of Argentina.
Safin, a two-time Grand Slam champion and winner of the inaugural China Open in 2004, has announced plans to retire at the end of the year.

Organizations: China Open, Toray Pan Pacific Open

Geographic location: BEIJING, Russia, China France Tokyo Belarus Czech Republic Doha United States Argentina

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