Clijsters hits heights to send Venus crashing

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The Independent Online

The American teenager Melanie Oudin has been the woman here wearing shoes with the word "believe" imprinted on them, but after Kim Clijsters' victory last night over Venus Williams there will hardly be a player with more reason for self-confidence at the US Open than the 26-year-old Belgian.

In only her third tournament back after two years out of the game in order to start a family, Clijsters ousted the world No 3 with a performance full of bold attacking strokes. Clijsters, who won her only Grand Slam title when she last played here four years ago, won 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 to earn a quarter-final meeting with China's Li Na, who beat Francesca Schiavone for the loss of only five games.

Williams, playing with a heavily bandaged left knee, missed several crucial volleys and overheads, though the 2000 and 2001 champion fought back well after being outclassed in the first set. It was then Clijsters' turn to be overwhelmed, the Belgian winning only nine points in the second set.

The final set was much tighter, but the crucial point came in the third game, when Williams served a double fault on break point. Clijsters seemed to tighten up in going 0-30 down when she served out for the set at 5-4 but recovered her nerve, converting her first match point with a service winner. "She played really well and hit a lot of great shots," Williams said afterwards.

Serena Williams, Venus' sister, had no such problems, beating Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-0 victory in just 64 minutes. The first four games suggested that the world No 2 might be tested, but from 2-2 Williams took charge. By the end Hantuchova had won only 33 of the 92 points played.

Whether or not Serena carries on winning, Dinara Safina will still be No 1 in next week's updated world rankings list, despite having played so poorly here. The Russian produced her third error-ridden performance in succession on Saturday night. This time she could not find a way out of her crisis, losing 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 to the Czech teenager, Petra Kvitova, the world No 72, despite having three match points.

The match was scheduled to be the first of the evening session in Arthur Ashe Stadium but was moved to the smaller Louis Armstrong Court because of the late-running afternoon programme. Safina was not impressed. "I'm the No 1 player in the world, why did they move me?" she said. "This is not an excuse, but I don't think it's a fair decision."

The top half of the women's draw is now wide open. Maria Sharapova had been looking good but was beaten 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday by Oudin after serving 21 double faults and making 63 unforced errors.

Oudin is still young enough to play in the junior tournament, which began yesterday. Britain's Laura Robson, who beat Oudin in the Wimbledon junior event last year, and Heather Watson both made winning starts, beating Tunisia's Ons Jabeur and Russia's Ksenia Kirillova respectively.