Clijsters defies long lay-off

Former world No 1 who took two-year break cruises into third round in Cincinnati
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The Independent Online

Kim Clijsters' comeback gathered pace last night when the former world No 1 beat Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 6-2, 7-5 to reach the third round of the Cincinnati Open.

The 26-year-old Belgian, in her opening tournament after a two-year break during which she gave birth to her first child, staved off a second-set fightback to win in 70 minutes. "Patty is a really good player and we've had some tough matches in the past so I was glad to finish it off in two sets today," Clijsters said.

Unseeded Clijsters lost just three points as she raced ahead 3-0 and though world No 20 Schnyder steadied herself, the first set was one-sided. Schnyder raised her game in the second but the Belgian broke in the 12th game to set up a clash with Russian sixth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, the French Open champion.

Fifth seed Jelena Jankovic advanced with a 7-6, 6-3 victory over Russian Maria Kirilenko in a match including 13 breaks of serve. "I didn't serve very well and I got a bit lucky at the end of the first set but I am happy I was able to win," the Serb said. "Hopefully I will get better from here."

Jankovic's next opponent will be ninth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Anna Chakvetadze of Russia.

In-form Italian Flavia Pennetta secured a meeting with third seed Venus Williams by beating Hungary's Agnes Szavay 6-2, 6-4, extending her winning streak to 13 matches. Seventh seed Vera Zvonareva survived a second-set blip to oust Russian Alisa Kleybanova 6-4, 1-6, 7-5

Meanwhile, Roger Federer blamed rustiness rather than the joys of becoming a new father after failing to hit top form when beating Frédéric Niemeyer 7-6, 6-4 to reach the third round of the Montreal Masters on Tuesday. In his first match since lifting a record 15th Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon, much has changed in a few weeks for Federer, who arrived in Montreal with his wife Mirka, new born twin daughters Charlene Riva and Myla Rose and a nanny in tow.

Ranked 487th, Canadian Niemeyer had hoped a few sleepless nights would help level the odds against the world No 1. But an opponent on nappy duty and the backing of a centre-court crowd of 11,000 could not save the 33-year-old in his final appearance at the tournament before retiring.

"I was happy with that," Federer said. "After five, six weeks without a match you're just a little bit slow on your reaction, your return. Mirka is great, she handles it all well. Me too, I'm quite laid back and hands on [with the kids]. It seems to be working so far." He added: "Today all-in-all I thought it was OK. I wish I could have got some more returns back but that again was due to him serving well."