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Kim Clijsters upset at French Open

Friday 27 May 2011 6:17 a.m.

Kim Clijsters (Reuters)

Kim Clijsters (Reuters)

By Chris Lehourites

After losing two match points in the second set and feeling her confidence fading, Kim Clijsters watched the match slip away Thursday at the French Open.

The two-time French Open runner-up, seeded second at this year's tournament, lost to the 114th-ranked Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

"I started doubting a little bit," said Clijsters, who played only her second match in two months after shoulder and ankle injuries. "When you start doubting yourself on any surface, but for me definitely on clay, it's the wrong attitude to have."

Maria Sharapova also struggled, but the seventh-seeded Russian won 11 straight games after trailing 4-1 in the second set and beat 17-year-old Caroline Garcia of France 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. No. 6 Li Na of China and No. 9 Petra Kvitova also advanced.

Five-time champion Rafael Nadal, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray, two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling and No. 10 Mardy Fish of the United States reached the third round.

Two days after Nadal was pushed to five sets for the first time in his career at Roland Garros, the top-ranked Spaniard won in three, beating Pablo Andujar of Spain 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (4).

Nadal trailed 5-1 in the third set but forced the tiebreaker. He will face Antonio Veic of Croatia, who eliminated No. 28 Nikolay Davydenko 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.

Clijsters, who had won her last 15 Grand Slam matches after taking the titles at last year's US Open and this year's Australian Open, failed to convert either match point in the second set.

Playing with her right ankle taped, the Belgian made 65 unforced errors in the match and lost 11 of the final 12 games. Rus finished with only 22 unforced errors and had only eight winners in the entire match.

Clijsters had no clay-court tournament preparation coming into the French Open. She pulled out of the Indian Wells tournament in March because of shoulder and wrist injuries. Then she injured her right ankle while dancing at her cousin's wedding in April.

"My ankle feels fine, so that has absolutely nothing to do with it," Clijsters said. "If I felt like I wasn't ready as much as I would have liked to be, I wouldn't have come here. If I wasn't feeling like I was able to play tough matches, then I wouldn't have made that decision to come here."

Clijsters had her first chance to close out the match against the Dutchwoman when leading 5-2 in the second set, but Rus saved the match point and held to make it 5-3 before breaking Clijsters to get back on serve.

"When I was 5-2 down in the second set, I was thinking, 'Just go for it and play more aggressive,'" Rus said. "And, yeah, that really helped.

"At 6-5 I had a really good serve game, and then I won the set. Then I was thinking, 'Yeah, I can win this match.'"

Clijsters then had another match point in the 10th game, but Rus saved it again and eventually pushed the score to 5-5.

With the momentum shifting, Clijsters double-faulted for the seventh time - one of her 28 unforced errors in the set - to allow Rus to break and serve out the second set.

"She obviously started building up more confidence, started playing a lot better and was really kind of putting me on my back foot all the time. I couldn't really play my aggressive tennis anymore in that third set," Clijsters said.

Clijsters injured her right ankle while dancing at her cousin's wedding in April, sidelining her until the French Open. She last played at Roland Garros in 2006, when she reached the semifinals.

The last time Clijsters was eliminated this early at a major tournament was when she lost in the second round at Wimbledon in 2002.

But since returning to the tour in 2009 following the birth of her daughter, Clijsters has won three of her four Grand Slam titles.

Rus, the 2008 Australian Open junior champion, reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

A few hours later on the same center court, Sharapova was at first outplayed by Garcia, a French wild card who was the youngest player remaining in the women's draw.

"She played unbelievable in the first set and a half," Sharapova said. "There wasn't much I could do."

But despite the strong wind on Court Philippe Chatrier, Sharapova was able to get her game under control and take charge.

"The conditions were tough and she was playing well and I had to do something different," Sharapova said. "Yeah, I turned it around."

Sharapova has not won the French Open, the only Grand Slam title not on her resume. Garcia was playing in only her second Grand Slam tournament, and second tour-level tournament overall. She reached the second round at the Australian Open in January where she lost to Ayumi Morita, and then reached the semifinals of the girls' tournament.

She already has at least one fan.

"Girl sharapova is playing is going to be No.1 in world one day caroline garcia, what a player u heard it here 1st," Murray tweeted after he beat Simone Bolelli of Italy 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-5.

Li beat Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain 6-4, 7-5, and Kvitova defeated two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Zheng Jie of China 6-4, 6-1.

No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, No. 15 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, No. 21 Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, No. 25 Maria Kirilenko of Russia and No. 30 Roberta Vinci of Italy also advanced to the third round Thursday, while No. 27 Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania lost.

The fifth-seeded Soderling beat Spanish qualifier Albert Ramos 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

"A win in straight sets is always good," the Swede said.

Also, No. 16 Fernando Verdasco of Spain won, but No. 20 Florian Mayer of Germany, No. 24 Sam Querrey of the United States and No. 27 Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus lost.

AP

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