Safina beats Kim Clijsters in Italian Open

Kim Clijsters lost to Dinara Safina in the third round of the Italian Open and with that she also lost her chance to reclaim her No.1 rank.

india Updated: May 19, 2006 18:15 IST

Kim Clijsters lost her chance to reclaim the No. 1 ranking on Thursday when she lost 6-4, 7-6 (2) to Dinara Safina in the third round of the Italian Open.

The second-ranked Clijsters would have moved past Amelie Mauresmo if she had won the title this week. Mauresmo was a late withdrawal because of illness.

Third-ranked Nadia Petrova and No. 4 Maria Sharapova also withdrew, leaving fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva the top player remaining in the draw.

Dementieva beat Ana Lena Groenefeld of Germany 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-1. Former top-ranked players Venus Williams and Martina Hingis also advanced to the quarterfinals.

The ninth-seeded Williams beat last year's Rome runner-up Patty Schnyder and Hingis overcame a partisan crowd and a strong second set from eighth-seeded Francesca Schiavone to win.

Williams will next face Jelena Jankovic of Serbia-Montenegro, a winner over Katarina Srebotnik. In the same half of the draw, Hingis' next opponent will be another Italian, Flavia Pennetta.

Seventh-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova also reached the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-4 win over fellow Russian Anastasia Myskina. Clijsters had a set point at 5-4 in the second set that Safina saved with a powerful forehand winner.

The Belgian had one of her nine double faults to hand Safina a break in the next game. Clijsters held to get into the tiebreaker but fell behind 5-0 with a series of baseline errors, then hit a forehand long on Safina's second match point.

"I was going for my shots and missing them. I just totally lost my confidence out there," Clijsters said. "I think it was just an off day."

Clijsters also struggled in a three-set win over Japanese qualifier Akiko Morigami on Wednesday.

The 16th-seeded Safina claimed her first win over Clijsters in seven tries.

"I was coming onto the court a little tired after finishing my doubles match late yesterday, but I saw she wasn't hitting the ball well and I said to myself: 'This is my chance and I have to go for it,"' Safina said.

Safina will next face Dementieva in another all-Russian match.

Hingis, who returned in January after nearly three years away from the game due to foot and ankle injuries, is still seeking her first title since coming back, and feels confident in a tournament where there have been several withdrawals.

"I feel like I'm so close, that I can even beat those top players," Hingis said.

First Published: May 19, 2006 18:15 IST