(August 29, 2012) -- Kim Clijsters hadn't lost a US Open match since 2003, way back when her opponent in today's second-round encounter was a mere 9-year-old.
But today Laura Robson, now 18, proved to be a worthy competitor for the three-time US Open champion.
She matched Clijsters stroke-for-stroke and eventually proved to be the player to handle the big points better in a shocking 7-6(4), 7-6(5) victory.
Robson will advance to face ninth-seeded Li Na in the 3rd round, while Clijsters will end her career in New York by making an attempt to win a title in the women's and mixed doubles competitions.
"Every time I came back I was inspired by the energy of this court," said Clijsters afterwards. "This is the perfect place to retire. I just wish it wasn't today."
After falling behind to an in-form Clijsters 5-2 in the first set, Robson stayed focused and started hitting on some big ground strokes and even bigger serves to level the set at 5-5.
After the three-game slide, Clijsters found herself in danger of being broken at 30-all in the eleventh game, but pulled a magnificent running two-handed passing shot past Robson then nailed a service winner to put the pressure back on the promising Londoner.
But Robson held her nerve--and her serve--to force a first-set tiebreaker, after saving three set points in a see-saw 10-minute game.
The tiebreaker was a see-saw affair too. Robson jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Clijsters rallied to lead 3-2. But with the Belgian serving with a 4-3 lead, Robson hammered two consecutive returns that left Clijsters flat-footed, then took the balls and served out the set with two huge serves
The pair traded breaks in the second set, and Robson had two break points to grab a 4-2 lead but Clijsters managed a gutty hold to hang on.
Clijsters, drawing upon the US Open magic that has guided her throughout her career, managed to fight her way out of even deeper trouble when Robson had two match points with Clijsters serving to force another tiebreaker. She saved both courageously, but Robson, ever present in this match, would not relent in the tiebreaker.
Finally with Robson serving for the match at 6-5, she reached down and produced the serve of her dreams and when Clijsters' block return sailed long it was over.
Li overcomes strong Dellacqua fight on Grandstand
Li Na was forced to fight tooth and nail through two tense sets against Aussie Casey Dellacqua in front of a spirited crowd on Grandstand, but in the end, after she'd reeled off six straight games to close out the 6-4, 6-4 victory, there was a big smile on the ninth-seed's face.
Much to the delight of her new coach Carlos Rodriguez, who was in attendance on Grandstand today, Li is through to her first US Open third round since her 2009 quarterfinal appearance.
Despite 32 unforced errors, Li can take comfort in the fact that she played near flawless tennis when her back was against the wall in the second set. It is there, when the pressure mounts, that the true champions to be emerge on the New York hardcourts. Li converted on all four of her break points today, and when she needed to, she stepped into the mid-court to knock off volleys and clean up short balls with confidence and ease.
Azarenka crushes Flipkens to reach third round
Victoria Azarenka is flying under the radar in New York, considering that she's the World No. 1 at the moment and certainly one of the players with a very good chance to take home the title in New York.
But if she keeps up with this level of breathtaking tennis, all eyes will be on her before long. Azarenka made quick work of Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens today, 6-2, 6-2, losing only nine points on serve and saving all three break points she faced from Flipkens.
It's hard to believe that Azarenka has never reached the quarterfinals at the US Open, but thanks to a rough draw in 2011 that saw her face Serena Williams in round four, that fact is indeed true.
But the 23-year-old isn't too concerned about past results. "I don't feel like I have to prove something," she said today. "Of course I would rather always win than lose. Taking last year's experience or the year before that, I can't really look back on it and take something. I mean, I can take something from it, but not really look back."
Looking forward, Azarenka will face Zheng Jie of China in the third round. "It will be definitely a big challenge," said Azarenka of Zheng. "She can definitely show good tennis, and I kind of need to step it up in the later rounds coming up. We'll see. I'm looking forward to play against her."
Kvitova shaky, but far too good for Cornet
Petra Kvitova struggled through an error prone first set against Alize Cornet, fighting back from a break down to win the final three games, then cruised to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over the Frenchwoman to advance to the third round.
It wasn't the prettiest, most convincing display for the fifth-seed, but considering that Kvitova flamed out in the first round in 2011 to become the first Wimbledon champion in the Open Era to lose in the first round of the US Open, it was far better than it could have been.
Kvitova was down a break at 4-3, with Cornet serving at 40-15 in the first set, before rallying to win the final three games. In the second set she raced out to a 3-0 lead before hanging on for the victory, despite 29 unforced errors.
|(Photo Credit: Andy Kentla)