Pain-free Safina looking to rediscover Montreal magic

By Steve Keating

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Former world number one Dinara Safina celebrated her return to Stade Uniprix with a 6-3 6-3 win over Germany's Andrea Petkovic at the Montreal Cup on Monday and declared herself 100-percent pain-free after a horror run of injuries.

Russian Safina, who left to a standing ovation with the tournament's crystral trophy two years ago, enjoyed a more humble reception on center court, with a small afternoon crowd greeting her victory with a smattering of applause.

"If I was not 100 percent there would be no reason to risk because the year is almost finished," Safina told reporters. "If I wasn't healthy I would take time off."

Injuries have seen Safina's ranking tumble to 70 after the 24-year-old took top spot last year.

Following a back injury that forced her out of Wimbledon, the Russian snapped a run of six consecutive losses by beating Alona Bondarenko in the first round of San Diego earlier this month, but was bundled out in the next match.

Kim Clijsters stalled her comeback run in the second round of the Cincinnati Open last week.

"It hurts (to be ranked 70th) but it's more important I'm here, I'm playing and I am healthy," she said.

The win over the 39th-ranked German on Monday was just her fourth since the Australian Open and none of them have been back-to-back.

Safina expects that to change in Montreal, one of her favorite venues.

"It's a nice feeling to be back, I've played some of the best tennis in my career here," said Safina. "I hope they will put me a bit more on center court so I can feel the crowd. With their support I will try to do my best.

"For how long I don't know but I will give my best."

A return to form for Safina would provide a welcome boost for the tournament, which has suffered from the withdrawals of the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova, who sustained a heel injury during her loss to Clijsters in the Cincinnati Open final.

After a rain delay, Estonia's Kaia Kanepi dumped out 14th seed Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3 6-3.

Belgian 13th seed Yanina Wickmayer eased past Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-3 7-6, while 16th seed Aravane Rezai tamed Czech Petra Kvitova 6-7 7-5 6-3.

(Editing by Ian Ransom)