Clijsters survives scare at Rogers Cup

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:48 PM ET

MONTREAL — World No. 4 Kim Clijsters had warned the assembled media she wouldn't be taking her 101st-ranked opponent lightly in her opening match at the $2 million Rogers Cup.

Good thing she took her own advice.

American Bethanie Mattek-Sands pushed the heavily favoured Belgian to the brink before running out of steam and losing 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 Wednesday evening in a match that lasted two hours, 14 minutes.

Mattek-Sands, a 25-year-old from Arizona, capitalized on a slew of unforced errors by Clijsters to win the first set and take a 3-0 lead in the second.

The American has had six career wins against top-20 players, but none over a player ranked as high as Clijsters.

Mattek-Sands showed she wasn't intimidated, winning three consecutive first-set games against the two-time Grand Slam winner after falling behind 3-1.

Clijsters then rallied back to tie it 4-4, but Mattek-Sands won the final two games to take the set, buoyed by a string of unforced errors by her opponent.

Perhaps sensing Clijsters was on the ropes, the American won the first three games of the second set before Clijsters began her long, slow comeback. She split the next two games before winning two in a row, capped by a forehand winner in a shutout game to pull to within 3-4.

Clijsters pumped her fist and skipped off the court in what proved to be a turning point in the match. Now it was the American's turn to get derailed by unforced errors as Clijsters won five consecutive games to take the second set, 6-4. Mattek-Sands only managed three points in the final three games.

Mattek-Sands mounted one last effort to score an upset, winning the first game of the third set and breaking Clijsters' serve to tie it up at 2-2.

But the more experienced Belgian only got stronger at the finish, winning four of the final five games to take the match, setting off rousing applause from the near-capacity crown at Uniprix Stadium.

Clijsters goes on to play the winner of the second-round match between Sybille Bammer of Austria and Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. Both are unseeded.

Earlier on Wednesday, world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki advanced to the third round following a 7-5, 7-5 battle with veteran Patty Schnyder of Switzerland.

Wozniacki, the top remaining seed in the tournament at No. 2, stayed away from the net and relied on powerful baseline winners.

But the 52nd-ranked Schnyder, who at 32 is one of the most experienced players in tour, broke Wozniacki twice in the first set and lasted one hour, 40 minutes before bowing out.

Wozniacki, a native of Denmark, says her opponent's experience was frustrating.

"She knows how to play the points the way you don't like it. She likes to mix it up and she doesn't give you any rhythm."

Wozniacki will face Italian Flavia Pennetta for a berth in the quarterfinals.

Wozniacki kept busy Wednesday, teaming up with Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova to win a doubles match against Czech native Kveta Peschke and Katarina

Srebotnik of Slovenia.

In the first singles match of the day at centre court, No. 7 seed Agnieszka Radwanska easily dispatched of American Vania King, 6-0 6-3, to earn a third-

round berth.

Also on Wednesday, unseeded Dinara Safina won an all-Russian battle in an upset against No. 18 seed Nadia Petrova 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

Safina, the 2008 Rogers Cup champion, says she fed off the crowd while rallying back from four games down in the third set.

"I guess the crowd still remembers that I won it," Safina, 24, told reporters following the match. "That is the nicest thing when you step on the court. The

crowd is there, they are cheering for you. At the end you start to feel their attention."

In the match that followed at Uniprix Stadium's centre court, No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva rolled past unseeded Czech Klara Zakopalova in straight sets, 6-2,

6-4. She advanced to play the winner of Wednesday evening's match between No. 16 seed Aravane Rezai of France and unseeded Jie Zheng of China.

Earlier in the day, France's Marion Bartoli advanced to the third round after her Japanese counterpart, Kimiko Date-Krumm, withdrew because of a thigh

injury. Bartoli, the No. 17 seed at the Rogers Cup, will next face red-hot Russian Iveta Benesova, who upset top-ranked Jelena

Jankovic on Tuesday.

Other singles winners on Wednesday were No. 10 seed Victoria Azarenka of Bulgaria; French Open Champion and No. 6 seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy; and

15th-seeded Flavia Pannetta, also of Italy.


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