Down Under: Busy in Brissy.
As a relatively low-key first event of the year, the Brisbane International has a knack of attracting the comeback crowd.
While Henin won her first match back on tour with a thriller, Kim Clijsters has been blasting her way through the draw, taking just 60 minutes to crush Alicia Molik 6-0 6-3. It’s time to face the music – we really, really suck.
It only took two games for the crowd to realise that Clijsters had arrived in Australia even better than she was back in the US last year – moving seamlessly, hitting clean and sharp groundies off both wings.
The Aussie commentators got one thing right: Kim’s playing like a No 1 player right now.
Molik on the other hand came back on tour with only half the serve that she had before.
“My first service game set the tone. I had a lot of opportunities. And when you apply scoreboard pressure on your opponent you get a few more errors,” Molik said.
“Kim ran away with it. She got a lot of confidence and it was difficult for me to get a lot of rhythm in that first set. I found some in the second but it was too late.
“Had I served better I would have been in the match and given myself a shot.
“She played incredibly clean tennis, hit the spots and didn’t give me a look in to attack or any short balls.”
With all sides salivating at an all-Belgian final, Clijsters said she can’t wait to play Justine again.
“It would be a good challenge but there’s a lot of other girls I can look forward to playing as well: Ana Ivanovic, (Maria) Sharapova, Venus and Serena (Williams),” she said.
“Those big matches are what you do this for. We love to play tennis to play in those kinds of matches.
“So, hopefully, Justine and I get ourselves into that position, whether it’s here or Melbourne or whenever this year.”
It’s been too long since the last Belgian civil war, I tell ya.
Clijsters meets one of my faves Lucie Safarova next round, who scored a dominant win over Aleksandra Wozniak.
Meanwhile, tournament 4th seed Daniela Hantuchova also sailed past Agnes Szavay, recovering from a shaky 0-2 start to close out the win 6-3 6-1. It was a disappointing performance from Szavay, whose second serve can be found at the WTA Lost Property.
The other two matches of the day on Pat Rafter Arena saw two Americans progress through to the next round in different fashions.
“Margin of error” is alien concept to James Blake, who – after so many years on tour – is still tempted to whack the snot out of the ball. It’s one of those qualities that endeared him to me years ago – Blake lives by the sword and dies by the sword, which makes him exhilarating half the time, a ‘bloody idiot’ the rest.
After a dismal year that saw him fall outside the top 40 with a string of injuries, Blake started his year with two tough 3-set wins against Sam Querrey and Marc Gicquel. But looking healthy and moving beautifully around the court, something tells me that the only way for Mr Lightbulb Head to go is up.
Joining Blake in the quarterfinals, Andy Roddick navigated his way past two Aussies – Luczak and Ball in straights. Both underdogs had their changes, with Carsten Ball getting a set point on Roddick in the first set. But with some clutch serving and solid court coverage, Roddick went on to hold and sucked the energy out of the local crowd.
Not a bad showing given his extensive time off. Although we won’t know the true extent of his rust or form until he faces a quality player.