NEW YORK, NY, USA - Kim Clijsters made a winning start to what will be her last professional tournament on Monday night, beating young American wildcard Victoria Duval on her favorite court in the world in straight sets, 63 61.
Clijsters, who will go back into retirement after this tournament, had some shaky moments early on but after tucking the first set away rolled through the second set against the 16-year-old Duval, who was the youngest player in the US Open draw and was playing the first WTA-level match of her career.
"I didn't play my first ever match on tour on such a big stadium; I had moments when I was younger when I played Steffi at Wimbledon and she was my big idol," Clijsters said. "I was talking to Victoria before the match. It was nice to get a feeling of the atmosphere from her side. I told her we've all been there and it's great to have these opportunities. I think she'll learn a lot from these kinds of opportunities and I look forward to kind of keeping an eye on her in the future."
Clijsters asked Duval to take a photo with her after the match. "She's so sweet - she's a very nice girl," Clijsters said. "It's a great memory for me as well to be in the position I was in, playing somebody who followed me for most of my career.
"It was nice for me as well."
Clijsters has won the US Open the last three times she has played it, in 2005, 2009 and 2010. And the love affair with the tournament doesn't finish there, as she has the best winning percentage of any female player on Arthur Ashe Stadium, with .889 (24-3). She's actually second on the overall male-female list after the ATP World Tour's World No.1 Roger Federer, who is .909 (50-5).
Joining Clijsters in the second round were the top half of the draw's two Top 4 seeds, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. No.3-seeded Sharapova was the first of the pair to win, advancing with a handy 62 62 win over Melinda Czink, showing the stomach illness that forced her to withdraw from both of her summer hardcourt lead-up events in Montréal and Cincinnati was behind her.
"I was just happy to be back playing a competitive match. It's been a few weeks," Sharapova said. "I went to Montréal and was supposed to practice and play the next day, but I woke up and wasn't feeling really good from a stomach bug I'd had for a few days. They said I should just rest. I just went home and took Cincinnati off as well. I think it was just a sign I needed a few weeks off."
Sharapova won the US Open in 2006 but hasn't been to the quarterfinals since then - her best result since then was a fourth round showing in 2010.
"I haven't been far here in a long time. I just haven't played at a level I wanted to play here. There's no reason why I can't, having the success I had a few years here, like winning it in '06. That's certainly something I'm looking to get back."
The No.1-seeded Azarenka, who only played six games in the hardcourt lead-up - retiring mid-first set in her first match in Montréal due to a knee injury - had an even more dominant performance, winning the first nine games and eventually scoring a 60 61 win over Alexandra Panova. And the only game Azarenka lost was her service game at 60 30, donating three double faults to lose serve.
While Sharapova hasn't been to the quarterfinals here since 2006, Azarenka has never been to the quarterfinals here, in fact this is the only one of the four Grand Slam tournaments the World No.1 has never reached the quarterfinals at.
Other marquee names winning through on Day 1 were No.5 seed Petra Kvitova and No.9 seed Li Na (read more about their wins here) and No.7 seed and defending US Open champion Samantha Stosur (read more here).
Three seeds lost, with Sorana Cirstea beating No.16 seed Sabine Lisicki, 46 62 62, her fourth win in their four career meetings; Czech qualifier Kristyna Pliskova surprising No.18 seed Julia Goerges, 76(4) 61; and Lucie Hradecka overpowering No.27 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues earlier on, 63 63.
Another notable first round casualty was Andrea Petkovic, who fell to Romina Oprandi, 62 75. Petkovic, a quarterfinalist here last year who started the year in the Top 10, was playing her second week back after missing almost the entire season so far with back and ankle injuries. She came back in New Haven.