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Clijsters Wins Battle Of No.1s

Kim Clijsters sizzled on Rod Laver Arena against fellow former No.1 Dinara Safina on Tuesday.

Published January 18, 2011 12:00

Clijsters Wins Battle Of No.1s
Kim Clijsters

MELBOURNE, Australia - They may both have reached No.1 in their careers, but at this moment one is much closer to the pinnacle of the sport, at least based on Tuesday night. Kim Clijsters was on fire in her first round match at the Australian Open, racing past Dinara Safina in just 44 minutes, 60 60.

Clijsters, ranked No.3, fired 17 winners to just four errors to hand Safina - a fellow former No.1 but now No.75 - the first double bagel loss of her career.

"My mind has been on this match for a while already, ever since I found out my draw last week," Clijsters said. "I knew if she played her best, I had to play my best to beat her. That's what I came here to do. When you see your opponent isn't at their best, you still have to keep the same mentality and focus."

"I didn't know how to win a point," Safina said. "I was looking forward to this match. We've played many times. I wanted to go out there and play my game and see what happened. But today she was just cruising and cruising."

"She was the person who made the biggest impression on me when I started again, not just because of her fitness, but because of her power," Clijsters added. "She just doesn't have the power she used to have. She used to have one of the best backhands down the line in the game, now she doesn't use it.

"She didn't get to No.1 just by luck, though. The game is still there. She just has to win a few matches, a few tough matches, then build some more confidence."

Safina had lost first round in both of her lead-up tournaments, including a 60 61 loss to Marion Bartoli in Hobart last week. However, against Bartoli she did win 38 points - Clijsters only allowed her 16 points in the 12 games they played.

"I guess I had the same feeling as last week when I won one game, except this week I didn't even win one game," Safina said. "I've been doing two months of pre-season. I'm fully motivated. I cannot say I didn't practice hard. But I guess something was not right. I have to figure out the answers. There are no secrets. I've always believed in hard work. But it's not about the hours. I need to find the right way to work. I will give my hundred percent to get back."

A year ago in Melbourne, Clijsters suffered the worst loss of her professional career, a 60 61 third round loss to another Russian, Nadia Petrova. She was asked in her post-match press to compare that to what Safina might be feeling.

"There's not much you can say to make her feel better, but I know her well. We were talking in the locker room. She's a good girl like that. It's not like she's not going to talk to me for the next two months when I see her on the road. But that's the sport we play - we step out there, two players, and things like that happen. But let's hope it's not going to make her confidence go even lower."

Clijsters has now won 27 straight Grand Slam first round matches and the last 19 of those victories have come in straight sets.

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