Clijsters wins first match in two years in Cincinnati

August 11, 2009 07:31 AM

MASON, Ohio (AP) -- Kim Clijsters joked that she had “zero” confidence going into her first match in 28 months.

She didn’t play like it, beating 12th-seeded Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-3 on Monday in the first round of the Cincinnati Open.

“I’m really excited playing my first match,” the former top-ranked Clijsters said. “I’ve been training since the start of February, and I’ve always been focused on Cincinnati. Winning my first match feels good.”

Clijsters, who retired in May 2007 and gave birth to a daughter in February 2008, will meet Patty Schnyder in the second round. Schnyder defeated Gisela Dulko 6-4, 6-0.

Clijsters looked good even before she started playing, according to Serena Williams.

“I look like I had a kid more than she does,” Williams said earlier in the day. “She looks amazing.”

Bartoli would have preferred playing the unfamiliar opponent later in the tournament, she said.

“It was very difficult to expect anything,” she said. “I haven’t seen her in two years. That’s the reason I didn’t start well. I was trying to figure out what she was doing instead of playing my game. By the time I figured out her tactics, I was down 0-4. It’s just a really bad draw, I guess.”

Mixing sharply angled groundstrokes that kept Bartoli on her heels with deft drop shots and solid serving, Clijsters showed no traces of rust while winning 12 of the first 15 points on her way to a 4-0 lead in the first set, breaking Bartoli at love in the second game.

“I thought I started off really well,” said Clijsters, making her first career appearance in Cincinnati. “Maybe I surprised myself a little bit with that start. I felt like my movement was good, but it could be better.”

Clijsters was unable to maintain her torrid pace, double-faulting on consecutive service game points while Bartoli was winning four straight games, but Clijsters regained enough momentum to close out the first. She had 14 winners to Bartoli’s two in the set.

The Belgian, who was ranked No. 1 for 19 weeks in 2003 and won the 2005 US Open, fought back from 15-40 in the fifth game of the second set to hold serve for a 4-1 lead and from 0-40 to close out the match.

Another former top-ranked player, Ana Ivanovic, rebounded from dropping the first set and overcame a rain delay of almost two hours to roll past Melanie Oudin 2-6, 6-1, 6-1. The match was delayed 1 hour, 40 minutes by rain with Ivanovic leading 4-1 in the third set. The 11th-seeded Ivanovic will meet Melinda Czink in the second round. Czink handled Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-2.

In other earlier matches, ninth-seeded Victoria Azarenka advanced into the second round of the Cincinnati Open with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Kaia Kanepi on Monday.

Azarenka used a steady game to defeat Kanepi, who committed 36 unforced errors to Azarenka’s 15. Kanepi also had six double-faults, while Azarenka had just one.

Azarenka said the match was tougher than the score indicated.

“She’s had good results recently, so I expected a tough match,” Azarenka said.

Two qualifiers, Olga Govortsova and Kateryna Bondarenko, also advanced in straight sets.

Govortsova beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-3 and Bondarenko topped Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-2. Govortsova will meet third-seeded Venus Williams in the second round on Tuesday night.

Also, 16th-seeded Virginie Razzano fell to Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4; Lucie Safarova outlasted fellow Czech Iveta Benesova 6-3, 7-6 (7); Aleksandra Wozniak beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-3; Anna Chakvetadze held off fellow Russian Elena Vesnina 7-5, 6-3, and Roberta Vinci eliminated qualifier Tatjana Malek 6-4, 6-1.

The $2 million Western and Southern Financial Group Women’s Open was elevated this year from a Tier III event to a Premier Level tournament.