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Thu 21 Feb 2008 02:32 AM

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Shocks in a Gulf sandstorm

Top seed Ana Ivanovic may not make 2nd match in Qatar after injuring ankle.

Ana Ivanovic, the top seed in a tier one tournament for the first time, may not survive to play her second match after hurting her left ankle in Wednesday's 6-3, 6-1 win over Olga Govortsova in the 2.5 million dollar Qatar Open.

The Australian Open runner-up from Serbia appeared to be coping with a minor sandstorm and the ambitions of the 19-year-old Belarussian until the final game, when, at 30-15, she suddenly slipped as she tried to turn near the baseline.

It was clear at once that the injury was significant as Ivanovic sat down behind the baseline with a hand covering her face which was contorted with discomfort.

She remained there for three minutes, much of the time in tears, as she was inspected by the physio, before being helped by the tour supervisor and the physio to hobble to the bench at the side of the court.

Ivanovic then had five minutes' further diagnosis and treatment, which involved plenty of tape around the ankle.

"It was scary, yes, and there were mixed emotions as well because I didn't think I could finish the match," Ivanovic said.

"When I was told it was only three points I didn't think I could do that.

"But somehow I did. I had to finish it in that game because the pain was really increasing, and it's not easy when you have your mind on something else".

She nearly failed to do that because Govortsova recovered to lead 40-30 before Ivanovic tried three heavy gambler's strikes and saw them all come off, though she limped as she changed sides between rallies.

Asked later whether she thought she would be able to play her third round match against Agnieszka Radwanska, the 16th seeded Pole, Ivanovic said: It's very hard to say at the moment.

"It definitely hurts a lot and I'll have to see tonight. The physio did a great job and I will try to recover as best I can".

There was a mishap of another kind when the fifth-seeded Russian Anna Chavetradze, the winner of the Paris Indoor Open last week, was beaten by Li Na, who has just returned to the tour after six months away.

Li, the first Chinese singles player either to reach the world's top 20 or to make the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam, looks to be building up nicely for the Beijing Olympics in August on this evidence.

She struck the ball metronomically, achieved a significantly higher first serve percentage than Chakvetadze and was particularly effective at the big moments, saving a set point at 6-7 in the tie-break.

She also won three games in a row from 3-4 down in the second set, two of them to love on her serve, and looks match-hardened enough to have a chance of going further when she takes on Shahar Peer, the 12th seed from Israel for a place in the last eight.

Another notable victim of the appalling weather and a determined opponent was Amelie Mauresmo, the 14th seeded former Wimbledon champion from France.

Mauresmo, still seeking confidence after a dismal injury-blighted eight months, was given little chance to find it, particularly after seeing a 5-3 lead in the second set eroded by a combination of the Thai player's experience and the de-motivating gale.

Patty Schnyder, the ninth seed from Switzerland, also went out, beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Dominika Cibulkova, the 18-year-old from Bratislava, and even Maria Sharapova, the Australian Open champion, was made to fight to survive.

"It was very difficult to play my game and I just had to do whatever it took to survive to another day," Sharapova said after her 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 win over a qualifier, Galina Voskoboeva, one of ten other Russians in the draw.

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