(photo credit: AP [file])
Shahar Pe'er advanced to the second round of the LA Women's Tennis Championships on Monday after Anastasia Rodionova retired through injury with the Israeli leading 7-5, 4-1.
Pe'er, who dropped to No. 65 in the world this week, will next face world No. 10 Nadia Petrova, who has gotten the better of the Israeli in each of their four previous meetings, including in the second round of Wimbledon in June.
In other action, Maria Sharapova took another tentative step in her comeback by beating Jarmila Groth of Australia, 6-0, 6-4, in 63 minutes.
Sharapova, absent from the tour for 10 months due to right shoulder surgery, breezed through the opening set in 20 minutes and lost just nine points. In the second set, however, she struggled with her rebuilt serve, double-faulting twice to lose serve in the third game and falling behind, 3-1.
She regrouped by breaking Slovakian-born Groth, made it 3-all and closed the match with her fifth break of Groth's serve.
Meanwhile, defending champion and world No. 1 Dinara Safina hasn't run into Serena Williams lately. However, she has heard what the Wimbledon champion and others have had to say about her qualifications to be the top-ranked player on the WTA Tour.
"Ranking is ranking. I didn't do the ranking system," Safina said.
Flavia Pennetta of Italy, last year's runner-up and the No. 10 seed, beat Varvara Lepchenko of the United States, 6-2, 5-7, 6-0.
However, it wasn't a good day for the other seeded players. Anna Chakvetadze of Russia beat No. 11 Virginie Razzano of France, 7-6 (5), 6-3; Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic ousted No. 15 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, 6-3, 7-6 (4); and qualifier Jill Craybas of the US upset No. 16 Francesca Schiavone of Italy, 7-6 (7), 6-2.
Safina just answered questions pleasantly.
"If she (Williams) has some questions she can give those questions to the WTA, who is doing the ranking system," Safina said. "It's just the result of how you play the whole year, not just the four Grand Slams. I've been playing the whole year and I've been having great results all through the Grand Slams. If she has some questions she can go to the WTA."
Safina, 21, was No. 9 in the rankings when she won this event a year ago. She won two more tournaments, was the silver medalist in the Olympics and a semifinalist at the US Open (where she lost to Williams) and compiled a 22-7 record that included losses to Venus and Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva in the Tour Championships.
She started this year No. 3, ascended to No. 1 on April 20 and has a 47-9 record that includes three titles, four finals and two semifinals. But she lost to Serena, 6-0, 6-3, in the Australian Open final and to Venus, 6-0, 6-1, in the Wimbledon semifinals.
Serena had said before Wimbledon that everyone knew who the real No. 1 was. After winning her third Grand Slam in the past year she wondered aloud how she could not be No. 1 on the WTA computer and said, sarcastically, that "Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1, she won Rome and Madrid."
Safina said she doesn't feel any urgency to win a Grand Slam, that "it's just a matter of time and one day it will happen."
When told that Jelena Jankovic said last week that to be No. 1 "you have to be beating the Williams sisters," Safina smiled and shrugged and said, again, "the ranking system is not only if you beat Serena Williams and Venus Williams. It's based on how you play the whole year, and what is their record."
Also Monday, Australia's Lleyton Hewitt advanced to the second round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Donald Young.
Hewitt, who won this tournament in 2004, is playing in Washington for the first time in three years. He will next face Israel's Dudi Sela, who received a first-round bye as the 15th seed.
The former world No. 1 Hewitt won three of five break opportunities in each set to beat the 20-year-old American.
Young battled Hewitt through the first set that featured five service breaks before Hewitt held serve in the deciding game. Hewitt then took the final three games of the second set for the win.
"We both seemed to return serve pretty well out there," Hewitt said.
"We both didn't serve great, either, so that made life for the returner easier."
Hewitt had not played since losing to Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.
"It's always hard after a few weeks off," Hewitt said. "It's nice to get through in straight sets."