Clijsters reopens old doubts after crashing to Li defeat in final

Kim Clijsters will start the Australian Open here next week as favourite to win the year's opening Grand Slam event but the 27-year-old Belgian's confidence might just have taken a knock with her 7-6, 6-3 defeat by China's Li Na in the final of the Sydney International yesterday.

Since making her comeback two years ago, having taken a break to have a child, Clijsters has largely shed her reputation as a player who frequently stumbled when she reached the finishing straight. The former world No 1, who had not lost in 14 semi-finals or finals following her return, appeared to be coasting to victory when she led Li 5-0 in the first set, but a combination of her opponent's rapid improvement and her own failure to keep going for her shots brought about a dramatic turnaround.

Li, who reached the semi-finals here last year, sealed her fourth career title and in so doing underlined her own credentials to win what appears to be one of the most open Grand Slam events for years. That is largely down to the absence of Serena Williams, who has dominated this event in the recent past but has not played since injuring a foot on a piece of glass in a restaurant last summer.

Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva are the world's top two ranked players, ahead of Clijsters, but neither has won a Grand Slam title and both have started the year in questionable form. Wozniacki lost exhibition matches to Clijsters and Zvonareva, the latter winning 6-1, 6-0, and lost her only competitive match of the year to Dominika Cibulkova in Sydney this week. Zvonareva also lost at the same stage in Sydney, going down to Flavia Pennetta.

Wozniacki has a potentially tricky first-round match against Argentina's Gisela Dulko, while Clijsters could have to beat three former world No 1s to reach the semi-finals. In the first round she meets Dinara Safina, who lost to Williams in the final two years ago, and could later play Ana Ivanovic, who was beaten in the final by Maria Sharapova 12 months earlier, and Jelena Jankovic.

Justine Henin, having lost to Williams in the final last year after coming out of retirement, is making another comeback, this time after an elbow injury which saw her miss the second half of last year. In the second round she could meet the British No 1, Elena Baltacha. Both women face qualifiers in their opening matches.

Anne Keothavong, Baltacha's predecessor as British No 1, maintained her hopes of reaching the main draw when she won her opening match in the qualifying tournament, beating Darya Kustova, of Belarus, 6-1, 6-2. Heather Watson, the British No 3, maintained her good form when she beat France's Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-2. Both Britons were due to play second-round matches today. Katie O'Brien was on the way to securing a hat-trick of British wins but lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to Luxembourg's Mandy Minella.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

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.

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most