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Davenport Cruises at Pilot Pen

August 23, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Lindsay Davenport started slowly but finished strong Tuesday in a straight-set win over Katarina Srebotnik as she began her title defense at the Pilot Pen.

The seventh-seeded Davenport managed just two points in the first two games before recovering for a 6-3, 6-3 win.

``I just got off to a little bit of a slow start, but from love-2, I lost just one more game that set,″ she said. ``Overall, it was a good performance considering the amount of time I’ve played the last six or seven months.″

It was the only the ninth match of the year for the former No. 1 player, whose battled injuries throughout the season. Bulging disks in her back sidelined her in March and a concussion sustained from a fall at her Los Angeles home kept her out of Wimbledon. She’s banking on a solid outing at New Haven, the final hard-court tuneup before next week’s U.S. Open.

``This was really my target tournament, so I’m happy with the goal of coming here and winning a match and playing better,″ she said. ``I feel like I’ve improved a lot over the last couple of weeks and I feel like I’ll learn a lot from this and hopefully carry it with me.″

Davenport charged out to a 3-0 lead in the second set with pinpoint passing and a solid service game. She appeared on the verge of cruising into the second round until Srebotnik, ranked 23rd in the world, dug in. Down 4-1, Srebotnik survived three break points, holding serve on a cross-court winner. But she was unable to break Davenport and has now lost all three head-to-head meetings.

In other women’s action, Mara Santangelo went from lucky loser to upset winner, beating eighth-seeded Anastasia Myskina of Russia in three sets.

Ranked No. 40 in the world, the 25-year-old Italian won a spot in the women’s draw despite losing in the qualifiers when Dinara Safina pulled out of the tournament with an elbow injury.

Santangelo lost the first set 4-6 before taking the next two, 6-3, 6-4. Down 15-40 in the final game, she was able to serve out the set.

``I tried to push harder (on) my serve,″ she said. ``It was not easy from 15-40. I’m very happy.″

In the men’s draw, American Mardy Fish’s run ended in a three-set, second-round loss to fifth-seeded David Ferrer, who beat the American 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5).

It was the third meeting between the two and the first time the 13th-ranked Ferrer has beaten Fish.

Neither yielded serve in the final set, with Ferrer having the best chance of breaking Fish in the ninth game. But Fish hung on, saving a break point in the three-deuce game. Ferrer screamed and slammed his racket in frustration.

He gathered himself and jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker. Down 6-3, Fish saved two match points before sending a backhand wide.

``It was important today to stay in the match and not to lose focus,″ Ferrer said through a translator.

Fish is ranked No. 60 in the world and rejoined the ATP Tour this year after spending most of the 2005 season sidelined with injuries to his left wrist.

``I take that as a positive and know I can play with a guy right there who is in the top 10 or top 15 in the world. The guy is obviously in form and we both played some good tennis in the third set.″

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the women’s fifth seed, also avoided an upset, showing some stamina in the process. In her second consecutive three-set match, she outlasted Tatiana Golovin of France, 6-0, 2-6, 6-4.

``I just didn’t want to lose, even though it’s not a Grand Slam,″ Kuznetsova said. ``I like this tournament and I want to hang in here.″

Defending mens’champ James Blake played Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo in the night match.

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