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August 12, 2009

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Clijsters wins first match in 2 years

FORMER world No. 1 Kim Clijsters won the first match she's played in more than two years on Monday, beating 12th-seeded Marion Bartoli of France 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Cincinnati Open.

Clijsters, who retired in May 2007 and gave birth to a daughter in February 2008, will meet Switzerland's Patty Schnyder in the second round. Schnyder defeated Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-4, 6-0.

"I'm really excited playing my first match," Clijsters said.

"I've been training since the start of February, and I've always been focused on Cincinnati. Winning my first match feels good."

Clijsters looked good even before she started playing, according to Serena Williams.

"I look like I had a kid more than she does," Williams said earlier in the day. "She looks amazing."

Mixing sharply angled groundstrokes that kept Bartoli on her heels with deft drop shots and solid serving, Clijsters showed no traces of rust while winning 12 of the first 15 points on her way to a 4-0 lead in the first set, breaking Bartoli at love in the second game.

"It was very difficult to expect anything," Bartoli said.

"I haven't seen her in two years. That's the reason I didn't start well. I was trying to figure out what she was doing instead of playing my game. By the time I figured out her tactics, I was down 0-4. It's just a really bad draw, I guess."

Clijsters was unable to maintain her torrid pace, double-faulting on consecutive service game points while Bartoli was winning four straight games, but Clijsters regained enough momentum to close out the first. She had 14 winners to Bartoli's two in the set.

"I thought I started off really well," said Clijsters, making her first career appearance in Cincinnati. "Maybe I surprised myself a little bit with that start. I felt like my movement was good, but it could be better."

The Belgian, who was ranked No. 1 for 19 weeks in 2003 and won the 2005 US Open, fought back from 15-40 in the fifth game of the second set to hold serve for a 4-1 lead and from 0-40 to close out the match.

Another former top-ranked player, Serbian Ana Ivanovic, rebounded from dropping the first set and overcame a rain delay of almost two hours to roll past America's Melanie Oudin 2-6, 6-1, 6-1. The match was delayed 1 hour, 40 minutes by rain with Ivanovic leading 4-1 in the third set. The 11th-seeded Ivanovic will meet Melinda Czink of Hungary in the second round. Czink beat Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-2.

In other matches, ninth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus advanced into the second round with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Estonia's Kaia Kanepi.


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