Kirilenko Into Quarters, Clijsters Cruises On
Published August 01, 2012 12:00
LONDON, England - When she came back to the WTA in 2009, she said her main goal was London 2012 - three years later and after a slew of incredible highs and injury woes, Kim Clijsters is quietly storming towards the medals.
Clijsters, whose comeback has seen her win three more Grand Slam titles and make it back to No.1 in the world, came into the Olympic Tennis Event as quite the underdog - dogged by a variety of injuries over the last 12 months, she is currently ranked a lowly No.36. Not many were hyping up her chances.
But with a couple of straight set wins against tricky opponents in her first two matches - 61 64 over Roberta Vinci in the first round, 63 63 over Carla Suárez Navarro in the second - she built up some vintage momentum, and in her third round match on Wednesday she was in vintage form, getting one break per set en route to a comfortable 63 64 triumph over No.11 seed Ana Ivanovic.
"It didn't feel easy," Clijsters said afterwards. "At this stage of the tournament you have to fight and you have to play some of your best tennis, and I did. I felt like I was doing a lot of good things out there today, and served a little bit better during the important points. So overall I'm very pleased with the match."
Clijsters is playing in her second-to-last tournament, the upcoming US Open her swansong. Does that change anything for the four-time Grand Slam winner?
"It's actually surprisingly easy," she said. "I'm here to play tennis and that's what I'm focusing on. I don't think about it being finished. I'm so used to focusing on my matches for the last 17, 18 years, and I'll do that until I play my last match. The routine and rhythm is there automatically when I go out there.
"When I came here a few weeks ago I took a lot of things in. But once a match starts, I don't think about it being my second-to-last tournament at all."
Next up for Clijsters is No.3 seed Maria Sharapova, who got some revenge on No.15 seed Sabine Lisicki for a fourth round loss at Wimbledon, dropping the first set then rallying from a break down in both the second and third sets to beat the big-hitting German in two hours and 47 minutes, 67(8) 64 63.
"I wasn't happy with the way I played when I lost to her a few weeks ago, so I wanted to change that result," Sharapova said. "Even though I didn't play my best tennis today exactly, I was really happy I stepped it up when I had to and got through it. I tried to create my opportunities and then take them."
Clijsters leads Sharapova in their head-to-head, 5-3, though they have only played once since Clijsters returned to the tour, in the final of Cincinnati two summers ago - and the two couldn't have been more even in that one.
"There's no secrets going into the match tomorrow," Sharapova said. "We've been on the tour for many years. We've faced each other many times before. We know each other's games quite well. It's our first meeting on grass. She has so many great qualities as a tennis champion and she's so tough. It's always nice to face her, especially at this stage of an event like the Olympics."
The other quarterfinal on the bottom half features Petra Kvitova and Maria Kirilenko, who were also quarterfinalists at Wimbledon a few weeks ago. The No.6-seeded Kvitova crushed Flavia Pennetta in just 59 minutes, 63 60, while the No.14-seeded Kirilenko edged Julia Goerges in a tight one, 76(5) 63.
"It was really tough out there compared to what the score suggests," Kvitova said. "I think Pennetta played well and we had tough games - she has had a great tournament here. But I used my power and that was the key today.
"It was the first match I've played very well here."
Kirilenko was thrilled to reach the quarters. "It means a lot," she said. "I am so happy to win every match here. It's still just a privilege to be here."
Kvitova and Kirilenko are tied in their head-to-head, 2-2. Kirilenko won their first two meetings but neither was even in the Top 50 then; Kvitova has won their last two meetings, though the most recent one was via retirement.