October 4, 2009

Serena returns with win at China Open

BEIJING (Reuters) – Serena Williams made a stuttering start to her bid to topple Dinara Safina from the world number one spot with an error-strewn 7-5 6-4 win over Estonian Kaia Kanepi in the first round of the China Open on Sunday. Safina, who must at least match Williams' progress over the next week in Beijing to retain the number one ranking, was equally unconvincing in her 6-4 6-4 victory over Italian Roberta Vinci earlier in the day. Williams missed last week's Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo with knee and toe injuries and looked far from her best on Sunday. It Williams' first singles match since her rant at a lineswoman in her semi-final loss to Belgian Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open last month.

The Australian Open and Wimbledon champion made nine unforced errors with five double faults in the 83-minute encounter against the big-hitting Kanepi, who broke the American three times. The second seed, though, always looked to have the edge on the big points and claimed her place in the second round of the $6.6 million event with a fifth break of serve when world number 48 Kanepi went long.

Williams only needs to have a better result than Safina in Beijing to claim the number one ranking, according to WTA officials. While the Russian said she did not think about the points race, the American has her sights firmly set on the top spot. "It's definitely on my radar," Williams said. "I would love to be number one but I also want to pay the price to be number one. And it'll come eventually."

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