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By Chris Oddo

(August 27, 2012) -- Kim Clijsters overcame a shaky three-game hiccup in the first set to fly past 16-year-old American Victoria Duval 6-3, 6-1 on Monday evening. The 23rd-seeded Belgian, playing in her final Grand Slam, got stronger as the match wore on, keeping the light-hitting Duval on the run for most of the final set and a half.

The victory is Clijsters’ 22nd consecutive victory at the US Open. The three-time champion has won titles in 2005, 2009 and 2010. Clijsters skipped 2011 due to an abdominal injury.

“It was very disappointing for me last year not to be able to try and defend my title,” said Clijsters after the match. “I’m excited to be here this year. It’s an honor to be playing these night matches.”

After falling behind 3-2 in the first set, Clijsters did not face another break point on the evening. She made 83 percent of first serves and lost a total of nine points on serve. Clijsters hit 23 winners to Duval’s 1, and broke serve five times in seven opportunities.

“I served well today, so I think that made a big difference on my service games,” said Clijsters.

Clijsters will face 18-year-old Brit Laura Robson in the second round. Clijsters, 29, has only played in six events in her final season due to injuries to her abdomen and hip suffered early in the spring.

“Physically I feel like I’m maybe in the best shape the I’ve ever been in,” the four-time Grand Slam champion said. “It’s just unfortunate that I haven’t been able to show it really in my matches.”

Stosur Opens Defense with Smash-Mouth Effort

Sam Stosur has put forth her share of  head-scratching efforts this summer, but now that she's returned to the scene of her only Grand Slam title run, things appear to be falling into place neatly.

In other words, cue up the Frank Sinatra ("these little town blooooooz..."), Stosur's back in town.

Stosur was nothing short of dominant in her victory today against Petra Martic of Croatia, coming just five points from a perfect set in the opener and rolling comfortably to a 6-1, 6-1 victory on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Stosur was so focused in the early going that she hardly noticed she was on the cusp of the Golden Set, which has only been accomplished once since the Open Era began in 1968. "I wasn't trying -- all of a sudden the goal didn't become to win a golden set," said the 28-year-old Gold Coast, Australia native. "It pops into your head and you think, Oh, that would be cool. You go through and I won a couple more points and then, yeah, I hit that double fault. You're going to lose one at some point. It's just the way it goes." 

Had Stosur accomplished the feat it would have been the second time in the last two Grand Slams that a Golden Set has been achieved. Yaroslava Shvedova won the first 24 points of her third-round match against Sara Errrani of Italy at Wimbledon this summer.

Golden Set or no Golden Set, Stosur's statement today was full of superlatives. When the 51-minute drubbing was finally over, Stosur's side of the scoresheet showed 10 aces and 22 winners against a stingy 11 unforced errors. The seventh-seeded Aussie won 59 of 84 points and did not face a break point on the afternoon.

For the sometimes squeamish Stosur, the nerves have apparently been left somewhere back on the Wimbledon grass. The Aussie went down early in both Wimbledon and the Olympics (a collective record of 1-2 in those events), but she appears to be ready to play some unencumbered in-your-face tennis here in New York.

"I felt like I was going to go out there and play well," said Stosur in the press room. "I didn't know I was going to win 1 and 1, but it was kind of the way I felt going into it.  I felt relaxed and calm about it."

Li Powers Past Watson in Straight Sets

Ninth-seeded Li Na was first up on Court 17, and she no doubt was looking forward to the chance of erasing the bad taste of two consecutive first-round losses at the US Open from her mouth.

Li, fresh off her first title of the year in Cincinnati and feeling good about her the chemistry between herself and new coach Carlos Rodriguez, had to see off a challenge from 20-year-old Heather Watson of Great Britain. Watson, who gave Maria Sharapova a run for her money in the first round last year, took a 3-1 lead against Li in the second set, but Li then raced to victory, sweeping through the last five games to secure the 6-2, 6-3 victory in one hour and twenty-one minutes.

"At least I was 10 years older than her," said the 30-year-old former French Open champion. "So I got more experience on the court.  I mean, she's play very good, but sometimes I have to show her how good I am."

Li, who hit 28 winners against 10 for Watson, did just that today. With a possible third-round matchup coming against Kim Clijsters, the sooner Li can get her bearings in New York, the better.

Li will face Aussie Casey Dellacqua in the second round. Dellacqua defeated Lesia Tsurenko of the Ukraine 6-2, 6-3.

Kvitova Sails Past Hercog

Petra Kvitova, who like Li Na lost in the first round of the US Open last year, also reached the second round today with a 7-6(6), 6-1 victory over Polona Hercog.

Kvitova, who won titles in Montreal and New Haven this summer, saved three of four break points against the World No. 65.

Kvitova is the only player to have advanced to at least the quarterfinals in all three Grand Slams this season, but she has yet to reach the quarterfinals of the US Open, and owns a 6-4 record in New York with two first round losses to her name. 

(Photo Credit: AFP/Patrick Kovarik)

 

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