ROME – Top-ranked Dinara Safina rallied to beat Zheng Jie of China 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (3) Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.
Defending champion Jelena Jankovic also went through after her opponent retired with an illness, while Venus Williams battled past Russia’s Anna Chakvetadze 6-0, 6-7 (8), 6-4.
However, French Open champion Ana Ivanovic squandered a four-game lead in the decisive set against Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska to lose 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.
Jankovic was in impressive form and was leading 6-1, 1-0 when Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine called for the trainer and then pulled out with the flu. The two players had been on court for 35 minutes.
Jankovic next plays Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, who ousted Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 in a little less that two hours.
Patty Schnyder, who defeated Serena Williams in three sets in a match that ended at 1 a.m. Wednesday, lost 6-3, 6-0 to 16th-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
American James Blake made a belated start on lifting his clay game Wednesday, winning his first match on the alien surface after nearly a month of play to reach the second round at the Estoril Open.
The number 16 defeated Portugal’s Federico Gil, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
He will next face Frenchman Marc Gicquel for a spot in the quarters at the Estadio Nacionel.
Italian Fabio Fognini won the last of the first-round contests on another hot spring afternoon, putting out Argentine wild card Gaston Gaudio 6-3, 6-4.
In women’s WTA play, Slovak Jarmila Groth upset top seed Iveta Benesova 7-5, 6-4 while defending champion Maria Kirilenko, the number two, stayed in the chase for another title, reaching the last eight with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Argentine Maria Salerni.
World number three Novak Djokovic overpowered compatriot Janko Tipsarevic 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 in his first ATP match on home soil to reach the third round of the inaugural Serbian Open on Wednesday.
Djokovic, given a bye in the first round, faces another all-Serbian clash in the quarterfinals after Viktor Troicki beat Spaniard Marcel Granollers 6-3 6-4 to advance into the last eight.
Former champion and local hero Philipp Kohlschreiber made a second-round exit from Munich’s ATP tournament on Wednesday when he was put to the sword 6-0, 6-4 by second seed Marin Cilic.
One of the rising star’s on the ATP circuit, 20-year-old Cilic, will play France’s Jeremy Chardy who beat another German Nicolas Kiefer 6-4, 7-6 (10-8), in Friday’s quarter-finals.
Earlier, third-seed Nicolas Almagro made a shock exit when he was beaten in straight sets by Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the second round.
Youzhny won the first set tie-breaker 7/2 before downing the Spaniard 6-4 in the second set as Almagro double-faulted three times in the game overall. Youzhny will meet France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in the quarterfinals after the seventh-seed beat Germany’s Denis Gremelmayr 6-1, 6-4 in just 74 minutes. – Agencies