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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safina Says She Will Fight to Stay No. 1

ReutersDinara Safina smiling during a news conference for the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo on Friday.

TOKYO — Dinara Safina, yet to validate her status as world number one with a grand slam title, says she will not give up the top ranking without a fight.

The 23-year-old Russian promised to prove her point by successfully defending her Pan Pacific Open crown in Tokyo next week following an early exit from the U.S. Open.

"If someone steals it from me, I will shake their hand and say 'well done,' but I won't give it up easily," she told a news conference on Friday, after being introduced as "Daniela" Safina.

Safina's status as the women's world number one has been a sore point this year as she repeatedly failed to make the breakthrough in the four grand slams.

A shock defeat to Czech teenager Petra Kvitova in the third round in New York earlier this month raised the stakes still further, but Safina was in bullish mood in Tokyo.

"I played the best tennis of my life here last year," she said before the $2-million event. "I plan to bring my best tennis again and give 100 percent to keep [the ranking]."

World number two Serena Williams was a late withdrawal from Tokyo, citing knee and toe injuries.

The American has not contested a singles match since her angry rant at a lineswoman during her semi-final loss to eventual champion Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open.