The contrasting directions in the careers of "Aussie Kim" and "Aussie Ana", two of the crowd favourites at the Australian Open, were underlined by their performances here yesterday.
Kim Clijsters, who has been popular with the Australian public ever since she was engaged to Lleyton Hewitt, justified her status as the bookmakers' choice to win the title when she inflicted an embarrassing 6-0, 6-0 defeat on Dinara Safina, a fellow former world No 1 and the beaten finalist here only two years ago.
Ana Ivanovic, who has relatives in Melbourne and used to go out with the Australian golfer Adam Scott, was in the final here 12 months before Safina. The 23-year-old Serb's fall has not been as spectacular as the 24-year-old Russian's, but a recent mini-revival was stopped in its tracks when she was beaten 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 by Ekaterina Makarova, the world No 49.
Ivanovic has not gone past the fourth round of a Grand Slam event since winning the French Open three years ago. Clijsters, in contrast, has won two Grand Slam titles since making her comeback in 2009 following a two-year break from the game. The 27-year-old Belgian was far too strong for Safina, but had sympathy for the Russian, especially after her own meltdown here 12 months ago, when she was beaten 6-0, 6-1 by Nadia Petrova in the third round. Safina, who was world No 1 less than two years ago, has dropped to No 75 in the rankings and could fall out of the top 100 after her latest humiliation.
"I do feel bad," Clijsters said afterwards. "At 5-0 in the second set she hit a couple of backhands down the line and I even caught myself saying: 'Yeah, that's it.' When she doesn't play against me I'm rooting for her because I want her to get back into it and build confidence."
Safina, who was beaten 6-0, 6-1 by Marion Bartoli in Hobart last week, fought back tears at the end of the match and admitted: "I didn't know how to win a point. There was nothing I could do to hurt her."