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Saturday, March 24, 2012
Roddick, Williams win; Clijsters falls

By Joanne C. Gerstner

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Confidence is a funny thing in tennis. It's clear when a player has it, and those who are lacking will try anything to find it, yet it can remain quite elusive.

Three of the biggest names in tennis -- Kim Clijsters, Andy Roddick and Serena Williams -- were in action Saturday at the Sony Ericsson Open, with all trying to regain their form after injury layoffs.

Roddick and Williams won easily. Clijsters lost, 6-4, 7-6 (5), to fellow Belgian Yanina Wickmayer and admitted the game may be becoming more difficult as her career likely nears its end.

Kim Clijsters
Kim Clijsters admits it is getting tougher to stay on top of her game and juggle family life.

Wickmayer, ranked 33th in the world, jumped on Clijsters from the start, building a 4-0 lead. Clijsters was in an uphill climb for the rest of the match, fighting her serve and movement issues.

She said she still loves tennis, but balancing hours of daily training with being a wife and mother is challenging. Clijsters is looking ahead to the clay court season, hoping to find her confidence and touch there.

"This is what my life is now, our daughter goes to school, I practice at home," Clijsters said, referencing 4-year-old daughter Jada with husband Brian Lynch. "I like being there."

Cutting back on training time has made getting used to things like playing outdoors more challenging. Clijsters splits time between Belgium and Lynch's native New Jersey, meaning more training indoors during the winter. She's also cut back on how many matches she plays, a concession to making her family the main priority. Clijsters announced earlier this year that this will likely be her last season on the tour.

Roddick has also been struggling to find a groove recently, suffering losses and watching his ranking slide to No. 34 -- its lowest since July 30, 2011. He's hoping that playing well in Miami, a tournament he's won twice, will rebuild the confidence in his power game. He said he's fully recovered from an ankle problem and a hamstring tear, both suffered on his right side.

He looked like the Roddick of old against Gilles Muller, winning 6-2, 6-3 in a little more than an hour.

"I'm moving better," Roddick said. "I ran after a ball, I don't know when it was, late in the first set, and I just sprinted across the court and didn't think about it. Just went. You know, there were a lot of positives."

Staying upbeat and trying to maintain his play through the injuries has been tough on Roddick.

"There's been a lot of negativity, from you know, me," Roddick said, adding a smirk. "I don't like playing the way I have this year, so it's more just about, I feel like something good is coming. If I can keep this progress, hopefully the next two months will be fine. Then I can build hopefully."

Roddick advances to play Roger Federer, who has been a nemesis his entire career. Federer has a 21-2 record against Roddick, including memorable matches at Wimbledon.

Roddick, in his self-deprecating style, noted the joy of having Federer in his way again.

"There's no getting around the fact that he's been the biggest obstacle in my career, and that his game matches up well against mine," Roddick said. "Just the X's and O's of it, I have to be really good to have a shot against him, better than against most."

Federer returned the compliment Saturday, regarding Roddick as a tough opponent.

"The head to head doesn't play a massive factor for me in every match I go into against Andy, because I know there's always a lot in Andy's racquet depending on how well he serves," Federer said. "If I don't play well, I know I won't win. So the pressure is there. That's what he can create with his game. This is why I never take a match lightly against him."

Williams, another American player returning from injury, had little resistance in her 6-2, 6-1 win over Roberta Vinci. Williams had not played since the Australian Open, recovering from a left ankle injury.

Her movement looked quick and fresh against Vinci, as she simply overpowered the No. 20-ranked Italian. Williams, ranked No. 11 will face No. 5 Samantha Stosur of Australia in the next round.

Stosur can match Williams in the speed and power departments. Stosur defeated Williams, 6-2, 6-3, to win the 2011 U.S. Open.

"It will be good," Williams said about playing Stosur. "We have had a lot of good matches. This a good court for it, because the ball bounces high. I look forward to it. Like, it will be fun. She's been playing well, and I'm just doing my best, so it will be just another test for me."