Safina had four set points in the first set but lost it in a tie-break. She hit back to take the second set but struggled with her serve in the decider and had to dig deep to clinch victory
Fifth seed Jelena Jankovic overcame an erratic start to clinch an opening victory over unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci. The Serbian, beaten in last year’s final by Serena Williams when seeded second, needed just 63 minutes to win her first-round match 6-2 6-3.
Sixth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki both made much easier progress into round two.
Russia’s Kuznetsova, the 2004 champion, was broken early in the first set by Julia Goerges but recovered to clinch a 6-3 6-2 victory.
Danish teenager Wozniacki thumped Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva 6-4 6-0.
Nadia Petrova, the 13th seed, is through after a routine 6-3 6-3 win over Katarina Srebotnik.
But France’s Virginie Razzano, the 16th seed, is out after losing 6-4 6-3 to Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer.
In the men’s singles, Novak Djokovic enjoyed a stroll into the second round at the expense of Ivan Ljubicic. The world number four was never troubled as he claimed a 6-3 6-1 6-3 over the 30-year-old Croatian in one hour 37 minutes.
Seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took only 78 minutes to crush American wildcard Chase Buchanan 6-0 6-2 6-1 and sweep into the second round.
American qualifier Jesse Witten sprang the first surprise of the day when he thumped Russia’s Igor Andreev, the 29th seed, 6-4 6-0 6-2.