ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) _ U.S. Open champion Marat Safin survived a tough first set to beat Russian countryman Igor Kornienko 7-6, 6-1 Wednesday in the first round of the $800,000 St. Petersburg Open.

Kornienko had a hometown crowd behind him but it was not enough to offset the commanding play of the top-seeded Safin in the second set.

``He's from here, he's a nice guy and well-known and also a pretty good player,'' Safin said. ``So I could understand how they would get behind him in the first set. In Moscow they want me, here they want him. It was great that they supported him.''

In other first-round matches, Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman defeated Albert Portas of Spain 6-2, 6-2; U.S. qualifier Jared Palmer downed Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic 6-0, 6-2; and Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands topped Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.