Defending Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters plays down injury concerns


Kim Clijsters today shrugged off any concerns over a hip injury and declared
herself "ready to go" as she prepares to defend her Australian Open crown.

The Belgian was forced to withdraw midway through her semi-final against Daniela Hantuchova at the Brisbane International last week, causing fears she may also be unable to compete at Melbourne Park.

But Clijsters today allayed those worries after being paired with an as yet unknown qualifier in round one.

"I didn't play many matches in the second half of last year and missed most of the American summer but I have trained hard in the off-season," said the 11th seed.

"I am feeling good and ready to go."

If she is to take the trophy again she will have to do it the hard way after being drawn in the same quarter as world number one Caroline Wozniacki, who is also under an injury cloud, while a repeat of last year's final against Li Na is scheduled for the fourth round.

Should she come through that then Wozniacki and third seed Victoria Azarenka are scheduled to lie in wait.

An earlier foe could be Britain's Elena Baltacha, who could get a crack at Clijsters providing she beats Stephanie Foretz Gacon in round one.

The Scot said: "We'll see how both of us go in the first round but obviously it would be great to play Kim.

"I've got a good record of winning matches in grand slams over the last couple of years and I'd like to keep that up, so all I'm thinking about at the moment is that first round match."

Wozniacki, whose place at the top of the rankings was guaranteed for a little longer after Petra Kvitova's defeat to Li in the semi-finals in Sydney yesterday, opens against Anastasia Rodionova.

The Dane injured her wrist during her quarter-final loss to Agnieszka Radwanska in Sydney but expects to be fit for Melbourne.

Serena Williams, a winner of 13 grand slam crowns, was paired with Tamira Paszek in the opening round and could meet fourth-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova in the quarters.

2011 US Open champion and home favourite Samantha Stosur meets Sorana Cirstea in her first match after being placed in the same quarter as Kvitova, who opens with a clash against Russia's Vera Dushevina.

Azarenka was drawn against Heather Watson, whose fellow Brit Anne Keothavong was paired with Mona Barthel.


A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
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