Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Clijsters carving up competition at Oz Open

Venus, Federer win with competitive grit

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MELBOURNE, Australia -- Kim Clijsters cruised into the third round of the Australian Open Thursday, beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3 in another impressive victory.

U.S. Open champion Clijsters opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win over former No. 1-ranked Dinara Safina, but Suarez Navarro was a potentially dangerous second-round matchup. The 22-year-old Spaniard beat American Venus Williams in a second-round upset in her first trip here two years ago.

"I was just happy with the way that I played," Clijsters said. "I tried to play both sides of the court, tried to be aggressive and dictate the points. And it worked."

With defending champion Serena Williams of the U.S. not playing due to a prolonged foot problem, third-seeded Clijsters is hopeful of going one better than her previous best performance at Melbourne Park, a loss in the 2004 final.

She has spent just two hours on court so far, leaving plenty of time to joke with the crowd and take a little swipe at on-court interviewer Todd Woodbridge, a former Australian doubles great. She light-heartedly chided Woodbridge about a text message he sent to fellow Australian Rennae Stubbs, suggesting Clijsters was showing physical and emotional signs of being pregnant.

"No, I'm not!" said Clijsters, who took time off the tour when she married and had a child -- daughter Jada, born in February 2008 -- before returning to win the U.S. Open in 2009.

While Clijsters has advanced with ease, American Venus Williams has had a challenging time. The same for defending men's champion Roger Federer of Switzerland.

Williams injured a muscle between her stomach and groin Wednesday as she twisted for a volley. She needed a medical timeout after losing the first set. The seven-time Grand Slam winner rallied to take the next two sets and defeat Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-4.

Federer faced a more familiar problem -- Gilles Simon. He's one of only three men on tour with a winning record against the Swiss star.

Federer raced to a two-set lead in a second-round night match, and seemed in the clear. He had never while lost so far ahead in a Grand Slam tournament.

Then Simon, who beat Federer twice in 2008 on hard courts in their only two previous encounters, started to take more risks, moving the 16-time Grand Slam champion out of his comfort zone. But Federer persevered, finishing off a 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory on his fifth match point.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2011 C6

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