Safina eases past Cirstea in Sydney Intl.

Updated: January 12, 2009, 9:53 AM ET
Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia -- Second-seeded Dinara Safina continued her tuneup for the Australian Open with a 6-2, 6-1 win Monday over Sorana Cirstea of Romania at the Sydney International.

Playing her first WTA tournament of the year after teaming with her brother, Marat Safin, to represent Russia at the Hopman Cup last week, Safina took advantage of five double faults by Cirstea to advance to the second round after the 58-minute match at Ken Rosewall Arena.

Safina said Cirstea had pushed her to play a more aggressive game.

"She goes for the shots, so I had to avoid this," Safina said. "I had to be much more aggressive, as she is. I think I did this pretty well today."

Safina said she appreciated the pre-Grand Slam practice she was getting at the Hopman Cup and Sydney. The Australian Open begins next Monday in Melbourne.

"You have to try the things you've been working on" in the offseason, she said. "Now I've played many matches and I still feel that I can improve. I feel there is room to be more aggressive and just try to play many matches and get 100 percent in the Australian Open."

Safina has nine WTA Tour victories, but the closest she's come to a Grand Slam title was losing in the final to Ana Ivanovic at the French Open last year. She also won the singles silver medal at last summer's Beijing Olympics.

In other matches Monday, Alize Cornet of France beat No. 7 Nadia Petrova of Russia 6-2, 6-4 and eighth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark defeated Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-2.

Cornet and Cibulkova also played at the Hopman Cup, and Cibulkova won the title with compatriot Dominik Hbraty when Slovakia beat Safin and Safina in the final.

Top-seeded Serena Williams, who beat Australian Samantha Stosur in three sets in the first round Sunday, plays Sara Errani of Italy on Tuesday. Errani beat Casey Dellacqua of Australia 6-1, 6-2 Monday.

Some players complained of hot and windy conditions on the courts Monday, and fans sought out shade where they could.

There were two illness-related pullouts and one injury retirement Monday. Fourth-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia withdrew with a stomach ailment and Victoria Azarenka, who won the Brisbane International title on Saturday, pulled out of her first-round match with a virus.

Melanie Smith of Britain advanced to the second round when Marion Bartoli of France retired with a left calf muscle strain at 1-1 in the first set.

In first-round men's play at the joint ATP-WTA event, fifth-seeded Igor Andreev of Russia beat Canada's Frank Dancevic 7-6 (2), 6-3 and seventh-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain, a former Australian Open quarterfinalist, defeated Austrian Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-4.

Michael Llodra of France defeated Denis Gremelmayr of Germany 6-0, 6-2 and Mario Ancic of Croatia beat Belgium's Xavier Malisse 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3. Jarkko Nieminen of Finland beat Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-2, 7-6 (9) and Simone Bolelli of Italy defeated countryman Potito Starace 7-6 (1), 6-4.

The top four seeds -- No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon and Argentina's David Nalbandian -- were given first-round byes. Defending Australian Open champion Djokovic plays his first match Wednesday.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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