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Illness curtails Sugiyama’s last-ever singles match

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Kyodo News

Ai Sugiyama endured heartbreak in the final singles match of her 17-year career on Monday as the former Japanese No. 1 was forced to retire during her first-round match at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

Clearly struggling from the start of the day’s opener at Ariake Tennis Forest Park, Sugiyama pulled out in the second set trailing 6-0, 2-1 to 13th-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova, saying the aftereffects of a high temperature and stomach problems had made it impossible for her to continue playing.

“I felt feverish after dinner last night and I couldn’t eat anything for breakfast this morning,” said Sugiyama. “I thought I would be OK but I had a stomachache.

“She (Petrova) had me running around and after three or four returns, I couldn’t feel any strength in my legs and I didn’t think there was any point carrying on.”

“I was really looking forward to the match and I wanted to be at my best so it is a real shame that it had to end like this,” added the 34-year-old.

Sugiyama and Slovakian partner Daniela Hantuchova defeated China’s Zheng Jie and Vania King of the United States 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 on the opening day of the tournament on Sunday and she was hopeful of bouncing back for her next doubles match.

“Again, it is a real pity that things turned out the way they did today and I never expected this but anyway, I will try and get myself right tomorrow. There is still the doubles and I will try to give it my best for the rest of the tournament.”

Safina bombs out

The Associated Press

Top-ranked and defending champion Dinara Safina was knocked out in the second round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Monday by Taiwanese qualifier Chang Kai-chen only hours before fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova was ousted in another upset.

Safina was serving for the match in the third set when she double-faulted to give up a break. Chang, ranked 132nd and playing only for the fourth time in a WTA main draw, held her own serve and then broke Safina again for a 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 7-5 win to reach the third round of the $2 million tournament.

“The double fault didn’t affect me that much,” Safina said. “Whether it’s a double fault or a mistake it’s the same. It’s just the way I played at 5-4. It wasn’t the right game, I didn’t use my first serve the whole game.”

Chang converted her third match point on Safina’s forehand error after the Russian had fought back from 0-40 to 30-40.

“On match point, I was just thinking the same thing as always,” Chang said. “I wasn’t thinking ‘Oh, I have match point, I’m going to win.’ “

Safina’s status as the world’s top-ranked player has been under scrutiny and a third-round loss to 72nd-ranked Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic at the U.S. Open did little to ease that. She has never won a major title — having lost finals at the French and Australian Opens this year — but has been consistent in other tournaments, winning three titles this year and four in 2008, including the Tokyo tournament.

“This is not an easy moment but that’s sport,” Safina said. “I didn’t play good in the match today. I had a lot chances in the third set and just let it go.”

Chang said the first thing that came to mind after her huge win was her parents.

“My mother doesn’t get out to watch a lot of matches but she follows the live scoring and I was thinking about what she thought when she saw today’s score,” Chang said.

Later Monday, Germany’s Andrea Petkovic knocked out French Open champion Kuznetsova 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to advance to the third round. Kuznetsova lost to Safina in last year’s final here.

No. 11 Agnieska Radwanska of Poland beat Russia’s Ekatrina Makarova 7-5, 6-3, No. 12 Samantha Stosur of Australia had a 7-5, 6-0 win over American Alexa Glatch and No. 14 Marion Bartoli of France defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania, 6-3, 6-0.