Monday, January 4, 2010
Updated: January 5, 9:46 AM ET
Clijsters wins in straight sets
BRISBANE, Australia -- Kim Clijsters' career comeback continued to gather momentum Tuesday with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Australia's Alicia Molik at the Brisbane International.
The top seed won the first eight games in the second-round match against Molik, who was playing her first top-tier tournament since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Clijsters won the U.S. Open last September in only her third tournament back from more than two years in retirement, becoming the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980.
Clijsters' title inspired a comeback by fellow Belgian and former No. 1 Justine Henin, who on Monday won her first tour match since May 2008 against second-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia.
Having Clijsters and Henin on the opposite ends of the draw sets up the possibility of an intriguing all-Belgian final in Brisbane in the lead-up to the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 18 in Melbourne.
Clijsters said she watched Henin's comeback match on TV and was confident both of them had the potential to return top of the women's tour.
"She was moving really well. Didn't look like she'd left," Clijsters said. "Of course, it will be a good challenge, but there's a lot of other girls I look forward to playing as well."
Among them are Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, and Venus and Serena Williams.
"Those are obviously the big matches. And Justine now as well," Clijsters said. "Justine and I, we've been on top of women's tennis for a few years, so hopefully we can get back to that."
Ivanovic, however, struggled in a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 win over Timea Bacsinszky in a late match to reach the quarterfinals.
On the men's side, third-seeded Gael Monfils edged American Taylor Dent 7-6 (1), 6-7 (5), 6-2 in a night match that didn't feature a service break until the fifth game of the third set.
James Blake continued his dominance over fifth-seeded Sam Querrey, improving to 6-1 in head-to-head meetings with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over his fellow American.
In other first-round matches, 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus beat American Mardy Fish 7-5, 7-5 and next will face fourth-seeded Tomas Berdych, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over Australian qualifier Nick Lindahl.
Australia's Carsten Ball had a 7-5, 6-1 win over Germany's Mischa Zverev to set up a match against top-seeded Andy Roddick for a place in the quarterfinals.
Clijsters is already into the quarterfinals against either Aleksandra Wozniak or Lucie Safarova.
She said she hasn't lost any momentum since the end of last season, spending time during the break training in Germany against "lots of guys" to mix it up and fine-tune her game.
"After a few weeks of practicing in the offseason I was ready to come out here and play matches," she said. "I like to practice, but when I feel I'm ready, I want to start playing matches. So I was very excited to come out here and play."
Clijsters has lost only six games in her opening two matches in Brisbane, following a 6-2, 6-1 win over Tathiana Garbin in the first round.