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By Karen Walker
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Safina enjoyed a breakthrough 2009 season with a slam finish in Australia and an incumbency to the top spot for most part of the season with the help of her three titles in Portoroz, Rome and Madrid. However, disappointing losses in the second half of the year forced her to concede the top ranking to Serena Williams. Safina's next season was hampered by a back injury that kept her out of action for the most part. This year, Safina lost in the opening round of the Australian Open to eventual champion Kim Clijsters and registered the first win of the year here in Kuala Lumpur over Xinyun Han.
Safina's opponent, Czech Lucie Safarova has four WTA singles titles to her name with her last triumph coming in 2008 in Forest Hills. Safarova's best performance this year was her win over an in-form Daniela Hantuchova in the Fed Cup playoffs. But ever since, she hasn't had much success with an exception of Qatar Ladies Open where she finished a pre-quarterfinalist.
Both players have met four times before with the head-to-head record tied at 2-2. Safina won the pair's previous meeting two years ago in Madrid in three gruelling sets. The Russian went on to win the title eventually and strengthened her position on the top spot in WTA rankings.
Safina is definitely playing better tennis than before but she would have difficulties against the Czech star who is likely to win today's encounter in three sets.
TennisEarth.com's Pick - Lucie Safarova in three sets.
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