21 Jan 2009

Erakovic loses hard-fought match at Australian Open

9:45 pm on 21 January 2009

New Zealand's Marina Erakovic lost her second round match at the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne, going down in three sets to the Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova.

After losing the first set 1-6, Erakovic bounced back to take the second 6-3.

The third set was a bitter struggle lasting 16 games, with Erakovic eventually losing 7-9.

Meanwhile, third seed Dinara Safina was also finding it tough on Wednesday.

A poor, passive first set against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova was followed by an even poorer tiebreak and Safina was staring down the barrel of a second-round exit.

But in the nick of time the 22-year-old was able to rediscover the aggressive approach and was rewarded with a 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-0 victory.

The other big names also moved through in the women's draw on Wednesday, although world No 1 Jelena Jankovic was given a tough workout against Belgian Kirsten Flipkens before winning 6-4 7-5.

Federer-Safin showdown

Four years after their classic semi-final, Roger Federer and Marat Safin will square off in another Friday night showstopper at Melbourne Park after steaming into the third round.

Fittingly on his farewell roadshow, the hugely popular Safin has found time to stop off at Rod Laver Arena to reprise his epic rivalry with the Swiss master after romping to a straight-sets victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Wednesday.

The mercurial Russian declared he had "nothing to worry about" against the 13-times major champion after dispatching the Spaniard 7-5 6-2 6-2 in super quick time before Federer followed suit with a 6-2 6-3 6-1 win over Russian Evgeny Korolev.

He accepts his best tennis may be behind him, but Safin nevertheless has good reason to feel comfortable, having taken down the Federer en route to the title in 2005 in one of the all-time great grand slam encounters.

The five-set defeat - in which he squandered a match point while brazenly hitting an under-the-legs trick shot - was one of just two losses for Federer at a hardcourt slam in the past five years.

Although he trails 9-2 in career meetings, Safin has always extended Federer, even as recently as last year's Wimbledon semi-finals.

"It's going to be a nice match for sure. We have a history," Federer said.