MONTREAL — Dinara Safina gets a good feeling on the hardcourts at Uniprix Stadium and the former world No. 1 hopes it helps her get back to winning matches.
Safina got a reminder on Wednesday after she gutted out a 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 second-round victory over fellow Russian Nadia Petrova at the US$2 million Rogers Cup.
“I guess the crowd still remembers that I won,” said Safina, the 2008 Rogers Cup champion. “That is the nicest thing when you step on the court — the crowd is there and they are cheering for you.
“Then you start to get this adrenaline and you want to play better and better.”
Everything was moving upward for Safina when she claimed the winner’s trophy in Montreal in two years ago. Following a win in Los Angeles, it marked the first back-to-back tournament victories of her career. By the following April, she had reached No. 1 in world rankings.
But back problems and a sudden drop in confidence saw her plummet in the rankings. She was at No. 70 when she arrived for the Rogers Cup this week.
Wins over Andrea Petkovic and Petrova this week marked the first time she has won twice at the same tournament since she injured her back during a fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January.
When asked what she liked best about winning her high-intensity, two-hour 15-minute marathon with Petrova, which including erasing an early 4-1 deficit, Safina was quick to say “winning a three-set match.”
“It’s the first time in a long time I could play the three-set match against a top player and physically I could feel fine. This was a nice test for me, for my back, for everything.”
In the third round on Thursday, Safina will face sixth-seeded Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion who edged Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2. Safina holds a 3-2 edge against the Italian, but this will be their first meeting on a hardcourt.
Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark got her tournament going with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder and fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva got past Klara Zakopalova of the Chech Republic 6-2, 6-4.
Wozniacki improved her career record over 31-year-old Schnyder to 4-1 as she advanced to a third-round meeting with Pennetta.
The Dane was a winner two weeks ago in her home town of Copenhagen and passed Jelena Jankovic for the No. 2 spot in world rankings behind Serena Williams, who is sidelined with an injury.
Fifth-seeded Kim Clijsters needed to dig out of a deep hole to post a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, whose mix of drop shots and aggressive runs to the net nearly led to an upset.
After dropping the first set, Clijsters was down 4-1 in the second and had to fight off two break points to keep her match alive against Mattek-Sands, a qualifier ranked 101st in the world.
Clijsters, a two-time U.S. Open champion, is gunning for a second straight title after winning her 38th career tournament last week in Cincinnati.
She was in her first match at Uniprix Stadium since injuring a wrist in a fall during a match with Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., in 2006, a setback that contributed to her decision the following year to take a more-than two-year break from the Tour.
The Belgian advanced to a third-round meeting with Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, a 7-5, 6-2 winner over Sybille Bammer of Austria.
Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, seeded seventh, downed American qualifier Vania King 6-0, 6-3 and 15th seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy beat Russian Alisa Kleybanova 6-3, 6-3. A minor upset saw Agnes Szavay of Hungary oust 13th-seeded Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-3, 6-4.