Sunday 17 December 2017

Tennis: Clijsters adds to Ivanovic's woes

Mark Hodgkinson in New York

NEW YORKERS like a bit of edge and excitement with their tennis, yet there was none in the sunshine on the Arthur Ashe Stadium as Kim Clijsters played Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round -- and not just because they are friends.

This was supposed to be the occasion when Ivanovic showed that she had regained her self-confidence, yet she was simply not competitive against last season's US Open champion, with the watching John McEnroe concluding -- and he would have taken no pleasure from saying this -- that, "Ana's like a chicken with her head cut off -- she's not thinking out there".

They were on court for less than an hour with Clijsters winning 6-2 6-1, and at one stage, as the Belgian led 4-0 in the second set having taken the last seven games, it appeared as though we were looking at a 'bagel' set.

nervous

At least Ivanovic avoided that, but anyone looking at her pretty face could have told you she was nervous, that her head was full of doubts and concerns. Ivanovic felt tense, she felt slow and she felt "out of it".

Rather than taking her time between points, Ivanovic was rushing, never allowing herself to settle.

Hopefully the other intriguing fourth-round match, today's all-blonde encounter between Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova, will not also turn out to be a non-event, especially as we are still waiting for the first decent match of a women's tournament that is missing the injured Serena Williams.

It didn't help the Serbian that there isn't a tournament, or a court, where Clijsters has had more success over the course of her career than at the US Open, on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It was here in New York that Clijsters won the only slam title of what she likes to call her first career, and last season, at what was her first grand slam after returning from a two-year 'retirement' to have a baby, she became the first mother to win a major since Australia's Evonne Goolagong was the Wimbledon champion in 1980.

As Clijsters missed several US Opens because of injury and motherhood, you have to spool all the way back to 2003, when she finished as the runner-up to Justine Henin, for the last time she lost a match on the cement. So this victory over Ivanovic extended her undefeated sequence here to 18 matches. Clijsters only has to walk around across this concrete complex to fill her mind with happy thoughts.

failed

Now Clijsters will play Australia's Sam Stosur or Russia's Elena Dementieva in the quarter-finals, and Ivanovic, who two years ago was the French Open champion and world No 1, yet again failed to reach the last eight of a major.

Since holding up the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in Paris, Ivanovic has not managed to go beyond the fourth round at any slam, and this season her ranking dropped to 65. If it had not had been for her looks, she would have faded even quicker from view.

Wozniacki, who was the beaten finalist here last September, and in Serena's absence is the top seed at a grand slam for the first time, has dropped just three games in making the fourth round. She won her first match 6-1 6-1, her second 6-0 6-0 and then beat Taipei's Yung-Jan Chan 6-1 6-0.

Still, she was outdone on Saturday by Sharapova, who double-bageled Beatrice Capra, an American wild card, in front of the Labor Day Weekend holiday crowds.

Before the draw was made, you would happily have taken Sharapova against Wozniacki as a semi-final or final, but, whoever wins today will only have progressed as far as the last eight. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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