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Sharapova, Hingis headline Pacific Life Open

Sharapova - © 2007 Paul Martinez /
World No. 1 Maria Sharapova, with media at the Sony Ericsson WTA All Access Hour.

Paul Martinez / PHOTOSPORT.COM

By Paul Martinez

Sharapova looks to get back on track; Dementieva withdraws

INDIAN WELLS, Calif., March  7 – Pacific Life Open champion Maria Sharapova returns to defend her title in second round action Friday. Seeded players in her half include Jelena Jancovic and Anna Chakvetadze, as well as Martina Hingis, who is fresh off her win in Tokyo.

       In the other half of the draw, Svetlana Kuznetsova was a late add and seeded No.2. Her path eased up considerably with the withdrawal Wednesday of Elena Dementieva, who may be out for up to six weeks following the discovery of stress fractures in her ribs while practicing in Moscow last week.

       Dementieva, who was the subject of a Sunday New York Times article at that Moscow Spartak club that drew questions at the media day, said the pain came on suddenly and sharply. "It started Saturday evening, in my last practice (before coming) here," said Dementieva. "It was just too painful and we decided to do an MRI. I really wanted to play here, I was in the final last year." Anastassia Rodionova, who dropped her qualifying match to Tatiana Poutchek, took her spot.

       Maria Sharapova hopes to defend her 2006 title and get a new streak rolling, but to do so she has to put away memories of  her straight set loss to Serena Williams in the Australian Open final. "It was just a bad day at the office," she said. "I let her break me after being up in the game and from that point she gained a lot of momentum. When you give someone that confidence, right at the beginning, they can just steamroll and it is hard to find your way back."

       With the Williams sisters boycott continuing, as well as no Belgians entered, Sharapova should have a fairly easy ride to at least a possible quarterfinal match with Hingis.

       The Pacific Life Open began on Monday, March 5 with the start of the women's qualifying draw. The women's main draw and men's qualifying draw began on Wednesday, March 7 and the men's main draw starts on Friday, March 9. The tournament will run through Sunday, March 18.

       The Indian Wells Tennis Garden is perhaps the most fan-friendly of any of the world-class tennis venues. Especially early in the tournament, fans are pleasantly surprised to find many top players on the practice courts along the south side of the property - players who are often not even scheduled to play that day.

Tournament Info:

       The first major combined tennis event of the season on U.S. soil, the Pacific Life Open will be held March 5-18, 2007 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif. In 2006 more than 280,000 fans attended the tournament making it the most attended non-Grand Slam tournament in the world. This year's event will again feature over 250 of the top men's and women's players and will be broadcast for more than 44 hours of live and tape-delayed coverage on ESPN2. Tickets and info (800) 999-1585 or visit

 Photo Gallery

Dementieva (c) PHOTOSPORT

 Elena Dementieva
Hingis (c) PHOTOSPORTMartina Hingis

Lindsey Nelson (c) PHOTOSPORTLindsey Nelson

Rodionova (c) PHOTOSPORTAnastassia Rodionova

Maria Kirilenko (c) PHOTOSPORTMaria Kirilenko

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