Clijsters out as men battle through

Second-round defeat comes after wedding injury while Soderling and Murray reach third round of French Open.

Arantxa Rus celebrates the considerable scalp of Kim Clijsters at Roland Garros [GALLO/GETTY]

Kim Clijsters, so near and yet so far from French Open glory in the past, suffered more agony on the clay with a sudden second-round defeat at Roland Garros.

Fellow twice runner-up Robin Soderling powered through, while Andy Murray laboured to a 7-6 6-4 7-5 victory over Simone Bolelli while China’s Li Na improved on her first-round display with an assured 6-4 7-5 win over Silvia Soler-Espinosa.

Women’s second seed Clijsters, a doubt before the tournament after injuring her ankle at her cousin’s wedding, looked to have shrugged off the ill effects and a chilly breeze in a dominant first set before folding 3-6 7-5 6-1 to Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus.

Belgian Clijsters was runner-up in 2001 and 2003 and her exit was her worst performance in Paris since her debut in 2000.

The Australian and U.S Open champion was also on a 15-match winning streak at Grand Slams.

“I was too negative in my head,” Clijsters said on Thursday.

“If I wasn’t feeling like I was able to play tough matches, then I wouldn’t have made that decision to come here.”

Rus, the world number 114 in only her third year on the tour, was ecstatic to have beaten a “hero”.

Sweden’s Soderling lost out in the final in the last two years to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Beneath the radar

The fifth seed is flying beneath the radar in western Paris with all the focus on Nadal after his first-round struggles and the immense form of rival Novak Djokovic, but Soderling showed he too was a force with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over Albert Ramos.

Cheered on by a smattering of Swedes with painted faces on a half-full and windy Court Suzanne Lenglen, Soderling displayed why he is so dangerous on clay with strengths in all areas making up for an occasional inability to kill off a point.

“I think conditions were a little bit tougher today. It was tough to feel really perfect. But overall, a win in straight sets is always good,” Soderling said.

Fourth seed Murray, beaten by Djokovic in January’s Australian Open final, huffed and puffed his way to victory but the battling Briton can never be discounted if he can find his best form.

American 10th seed Mardy Fish wrapped up a 7-6 6-2 6-1 triumph over Robin Haase but compatriot Sam Querrey lost out to Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco defeated Xavier Malisse in four sets.

Among the women, Czech dark horse Petra Kvitova made her move on the outside with a 6-4 6-1 victory over China’s Zheng Jie and 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska also reached the third round by overcoming India’s Sania Mirza 6-2 6-4.

Men’s champion Nadal had to battle back from two sets to one down to beat John Isner on Tuesday in his first five-set match at Roland Garros, prompting pundits and fans to wonder whether his bid for a sixth title in seven years was doomed.

He was meeting Pablo Andujar and although his fellow Spaniard will not trouble Nadal with his serve like giant American Isner did, the world number one’s general demeanour will be closely watched – not least by Djokovic.

Russia’s Maria Sharapova plays Caroline Garcia and, like Djokovic, she is quickly becoming the hot tip for victory at the famous French tennis venue – which beat competition from the Paris suburbs in February to keep hosting the event beyond 2016.

Source: Reuters