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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Williams and Safina Avoid Topic of No. 1 as U.S. Open Begins

ReutersDinara Safina answering questions at a news conference prior to the first round of the U. S. Open at the National Tennis Center in New York on Saturday.
NEW YORK — After winning Wimbledon, her third title from the past four major tournaments, Serena Williams made some pointed comments about being No. 2 in the rankings behind No. 1 Dinara Safina, who happens to have zero Grand Slam championships on her resume.

Asked to revisit that topic at Flushing Meadows, Williams wouldn't bite.

"I don't talk about that anymore. I'm sorry," the defending U.S. Open champion said during a pre-tournament news conference.

Asked why, Williams replied: "I've talked about it a lot, and if you want to read some answers that I said, you know, you can, but I think we should talk about something else."

After a follow-up question, Williams made it clear she wanted to move on, saying: "Any other questions that's not about No. 1?"

Safina also was asked about the topic. She, too, wasn't interested in a conversation.

"Well, you know, I'm not doing the ranking system," the Russian said. "You know, what can I do? There is ranking, and if you look at the ranking, I'm No. 1 in the world."

No such controversy exists on the men's side, where No. 1 Roger Federer is preparing for a major underdog in his first-round match: an 18-year-old from Jackson, Miss., named Devin Britton.

Britton, who won the NCAA singles championship for Mississippi in May, will face Federer in Monday's first round. It will be Britton's second career tour-level match — and first at a Grand Slam tournament.

Federer owns a record 15 Grand Slam titles and is ranked No. 1.
Britton tied for 1,370th in the rankings.

Asked about what advice he'd give Britton, Federer recalled being 17 and playing in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland, against Andre Agassi.

"That was disbelief. I thought people were kidding me when they told me I was playing Agassi," Federer recalled. "I was in shock, but you try to enjoy it and try to put in a good fight. This is a bit different. This is a Grand Slam, best-of-five-set match — maybe something Britton has never played before. But a good thing in tennis is you always have a chance. Doesn't matter who you play, where you play."

Federer lost that 1998 match to Agassi 6-2, 6-3. Indeed, Federer lost each of his first three matches against the American.

But Britton perhaps can take heart from this: After that 0-3 start, Federer wound up going 8-0 against Agassi over the rest of their careers.