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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin Survives Comrade's Challenge

ST. PETERSBURG — Top seed Marat Safin survived a rocky first set to beat little-known Russian compatriot Igor Kornienko 7-6, 6-1 in the first round of the St. Petersburg Open on Wednesday.

Neither player had the edge in the opening set, which went to a tiebreaker. Safin finally prevailed 9-7 by winning the last three points.

"He is a lefty and has an awkward serve, so it was difficult for me to break him in the beginning," said the U.S. Open champion, who hit 11 aces.

In the sixth game of the first set, one of Safin’s powerful serves ricocheted off Kornienko’s racquet, hitting a front-row spectator in the VIP box in the face. The man had to be escorted from the arena for medical treatment.

Safin broke Kornienko, ranked 693 in the world, in the second game of the second set to take a 2-0 lead and never looked back.

"I think he just lost concentration at the start of the second set and gave me a chance to break him," Safin said. "The rest was easy."

Third seed Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia became the first quarterfinalist when he eliminated Swede Thomas Johansson 6-4, 6-3 in a 72-minute match.

"Right from the start, I noticed that he was nervous and I had a good chance to win," said Hrbaty. He now faces Wimbledon semifinalist Vladimir Voltchkov, who disposed of Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina 7-5, 6-2.

Fifth-seeded Dutchman Sjeng Schalken overcame a slow start to beat Goran Ivanisevic 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. It was the ninth consecutive defeat for the Croat.

"He was serving very well in the first set, but in the second he became a little bit more impatient and I just took advantage of it," said Schalken, who goes on to meet American qualifier Jared Palmer, a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Czech Jiri Novak.