Australian Open: Clijsters impressive in win
MELBOURNE, Australia — Kim Clijsters is one of the friendliest players on the women’s tour. Cheery in the locker room, generous, polite.
That’s off the court.
She learned by losing three Grand Slam finals that intensity is essential to winning a major, something she’s hoping to do outside the United States for the first time.
Clijsters started her Australian Open run with a 6-0, 6-0 romp Tuesday. Such domination is not uncommon in the early rounds of a Grand Slam tournament when top seeds face lowly ranked players, qualifiers or wild cards.
To do it, however, against three-time Grand Slam finalist and former No. 1-ranked player Dinara Safina was remarkable.
Safina had no answers for Clijsters, who sprayed winners all over the court. And Clijsters, a three-time U.S. Open champion, offered no letup.
The first-round match involving Lleyton Hewitt, Clijsters’ ex-fiance, was altogether different — a 4-hour, 48-minute five-set loss to David Nalbandian that ended at 1:10 a.m. today.
Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open finalist, came back from two sets down for the first time in his career in another late five-setter.
The Argentine drew begrudging applause from the parochial Rod Laver Arena crowd for his grit.
“What I take out of today? I take the brave heart that I put on the court,” he said.
Now all the talk in Melbourne will be about Rafael Nadal and his pursuit for a “Rafa Slam.”
The Spaniard played only 11 games in his opening match Tuesday, the match curtailed because of Marcos Daniel’s injured left knee. Not content to extend his Grand Slam string of 22 match wins with the 6-0, 5-0 scoreline, Nadal went to the practice courts to work on his serve. That’s the element of his game he thinks he needs to improve to become the first man in 41 years to all four majors at once.
Laver last did it in 1969, in a calendar year. Nadal’s bid for a “Rafa Slam” started a few months after he limped out of Melbourne Park last year with an injured knee after retiring from his Australian Open quarterfinal against Andy Murray. He won then won the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns.
Nadal isn’t interested yet in how anybody else is progressing, or how his own play is perceived.
“I never read a lot about me, so this is not an obsession. Seriously, the most positive thing that’s talking about that is because I won the last three.”
Nadal next faces American qualifier Ryan Sweeting, who beat Daniel Gimeno 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.
On the women’s side, the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players have never won a major, leaving No. 3 Clijsters and No. 4 Venus Williams as favorites to advance.