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Benesova Fights Back, Clijsters Wins Opener

The new season officially kicked off as the first round of the Brisbane International got underway.

Published January 01, 2012 12:00

Benesova Fights Back, Clijsters Wins Opener
Iveta Benesova

BRISBANE, Australia - It's official - the first tournament of the new WTA season is underway. The first round of the Brisbane International kicked off Sunday, and among the winners was fit and fresh former No.1 Kim Clijsters.

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Clijsters wasn't far from No.1 the last time she played on the WTA, ranked No.2 at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last August. She suffered an abdominal injury in her opening match, missed the rest of the season and now makes her return to the courts down at No.13 in the world. But her health is the important thing.

"I did rehab at home for a couple of months after I was injured in Toronto," Clijsters said. "I gradually started working out again, to get my body back into the intense workout, and then tennis was introduced. The last few months I was at home taking care of the family and preparing for the Australian summer."

All of the rehab and preparation seemed to come together on Sunday afternoon as she won her comeback match against young Romanian Simona Halep, 61 64, a few shaky moments as she lost two straight games to let 4-2 become 4-4 in the second set, but winning the last two games easily to seal the victory.

"For the first match this was pretty good," Clijsters told reporters afterwards. "In the second set there were a few little errors I will need to focus on in my next match, but overall I felt good out there. I was playing aggressively and moving well. I was pleased with the way I served. I was pretty satisfied overall."

In the second round Clijsters will play the winner of the first round match between Ana Ivanovic and Tamira Paszek. Ivanovic is also a former No.1 and the last time she met Clijsters it was an epic battle, with Ivanovic leading 5-1 in the third set and missing out on five match points to lose, 76(4) 36 76(5).

"Ana is a great player. She has had some tough years but has recovered well," Clijsters commented on Ivanovic. "She and I have always gotten along well. I've always been rooting for her to do well and get back to where she was, so it's exciting to see her back and to see her back with a good ranking."

Other winners earlier were Bojana Jovanovski, who beat Casey Dellacqua, 64 62; Iveta Benesova, who rallied from a set and a break down to beat fellow Czech lefty Lucie Safarova, 26 75 75; and No.3 seed Francesca Schiavone, who won when Ksenia Pervak retired at 4-all in the first set due to a migraine.

It has been almost a year since Schiavone played the record-breaking marathon against Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Australian Open, and at age 31 people may question her ability to keep playing at the highest level - but she doesn't.

"If you look at me, I'm not so old," the Italian joked. "I mean I can run faster than others run, and I think we are the good generation, me, Serena and Venus. Maybe Kim is '83 but she has a lot of experience too. We have to use all of that experience and use our weapons to beat the younger players today.

"I am happy. I am very excited to start the new season."

In the last match of the day, Daniela Hantuchova beat No.8 seed Dominika Cibulkova, 36 64 63, rallying from 63 20 down to prevail. It was a battle between Slovakia's Top 2 players - Cibulkova is ranked No.18, Hantuchova No.24. Hantuchova has now won all four of their career meetings.

Vania King, Vera Dushevina, Alexandra Panova and Nina Bratchikova all secured berths in the main draw with wins in the final round of qualifying.

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