The Sunday Leader

Clijsters Falls To Petrova While Henin Marches On

Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters suffered a humbling third round defeat while Justine Henin narrowly avoided the same fate on an intriguing day at the Australian Open.

Clijsters, one of the favourites to win the title, was blasted off court by 19th seeded Russian Nadia Petrova 6-0 6-1 in only 52 minutes in Melbourne.

The result shocked the large crowd who had come to cheer her on.

Fellow Belgian comeback queen Henin fought back from a set down to see off Russian Alisa Kleybanova 3-6 6-4 6-2.

Meanwhile, eighth seed Jelena Jankovic made a third-round exit in a 6-2 6-3 loss to 31st seed Alona Bondarenko.

Clijsters, 26, an emotional winner of the US Open last year in only her third tournament back after a two-year sabbatical, won only five points in an 18-minute opening set, in which she ran up 17 unforced errors.

The 15th seed finally held her serve in the 10th game of the match but quickly succumbed to defeat.

It tarnished a previously impressive record for the former world number one, who had reached the semi-finals or better at her five previous trips to the Australian Open.

“I was completely off. I think tennis-wise, I didn’t feel the ball at all,” Clijsters said.

“On the other hand, she was good, but I made all the mistakes and she really didn’t have to do much. It’s something you don’t want to happen too often.

“It sucks that it has to happen at this stage of this tournament. That’s sports – it can happen.”

Henin, who has only just returned to the sport, looked a little weary at the start, which was not surprising considering her three-hour epic victory over fifth seed Elena Dementieva in the second round.

The former number one was swept all around the court in the opening set and after being broken at the start of the second a swift exit seemed the most likely outcome.

However, Kleybanova, 27th seed, allowed her opponent to break back and lost the set with a sloppy double fault.

With the crowd growing more noisy, both players raised their game and it was the Belgian who thrived on the atmosphere and took full advantage of the tiring Russian by flying into a 3-0 lead.

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