Clijsters' crash removes threat

Extraordinary upset as US Open champion falls but fellow Belgian struggles on

When the Australian Open began this week the consensus was that only a Belgian could prevent Serena Williams winning the title for a fifth time. A serious rethink was under way at Melbourne Park yesterday after Kim Clijsters went out of the tournament in one of the most extraordinary results of recent years and Justine Henin struggled to beat Russia's Alisa Kleybanova.

Clijsters, who won the US Open four months ago in only her third comeback tournament, was beaten 6-0, 6-1 by Nadia Petrova, the No 19 seed, who had lost all four of their previous meetings. Clijsters played like a complete novice, winning just five points as she lost the first set in only 18 minutes. She improved marginally in the second set, but her level was way below the standards she had set since coming back from retirement last summer.

Petrova, who played impeccably from the start, is a former world No 3, but had done little in recent years to suggest she was capable of pulling off such a victory.

The result was almost as big a shock as Henin's defeat by Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon semi-finals three years ago, though the scoreline was more reminiscent of 16-year-old Jelena Dokic's 6-2, 6-0 victory over Martina Hingis, the world No 1, in the first round at Wimbledon in 1999. It was Clijsters' heaviest defeat in her 28 Grand Slam tournaments.

She was at a loss to explain her performance. "I made all the mistakes and she didn't really have to do much," Clijsters said. "She served really well and was aggressive in the rallies, but that's because I let her play into the courts. I wasn't feeling the ball well. It sucks. It's something you don't want to happen too often.

"Matches like this happen maybe once a year. But you don't want it to happen more than this because then you know it's not a coincidence. I don't think I've changed anything in my whole preparation before every match. Everything was the same, I followed the same routine and then something like this happens. That's probably the most frustrating thing about it, not knowing. That's sport."

Henin, playing her second tournament after coming out of retirement, also seemed on the way out when she lost the first set and trailed 3-1 and 15-40 in the second before recovering to beat Kleybanova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. The 2004 champion never found the form she had hit in beating Elena Dementieva in the previous round and said she was still feeling the effects of her exertions two days earlier. "My body suffered a lot," Henin said. "It's not used to it any more. After almost two years off, it's normal that it takes a little bit to really get used to it physically."

She added: "I kind of survived a little bit today. It's always good to win this kind of match because I came back from nowhere."

Henin now faces another Belgian, Yanina Wickmayer, who reached the semi-finals at last year's US Open. The world No 16 has already won six matches here after having to qualify. Wickmayer's successful appeal against a suspension for breaching the drugs "whereabouts" rule came after the cut-off date for tournament entries, thereby forcing her to enter the qualifying competition.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us