Clijsters steamrolls over Navarro at Aussie Open

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Clijsters steamrolls over Navarro at Aussie Open

MELBOURNE, Australia - Kim Clijsters continued the form that is making her a hot favorite for the Australian Open women’s title, beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3 yesterday to reach the third round.

U.S. Open champion Clijsters opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win over former No. 1 Dinara Safina.

Suarez Navarro was a potentially dangerous second-round matchup.

The 22-year-old Spaniard beat Venus Williams in a second-round upset in her first trip to Melbourne Park two years ago.

“She is a tough player. She’s tricky. The balls bounce so much different than for my first round,’’ Clijsters said. “I was just happy with the way that I played. I tried to play both sides of the court, tried to be aggressive and dictate the points. And it worked.’’

With defending champion Serena Williams not playing in Australia because of a prolonged foot problem, third-seeded Clijsters is hopeful of going one better than her previous best performance at Melbourne Park - she lost the 2004 final.

Her third-round 6-0, 6-1 loss here to Nadia Petrova last year was her worst in a major. It’s a defeat she claims she doesn’t dwell on and doesn’t think will influence her preparations for the same stage this weekend.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played a match like that. So it was very easy in a way to also forget about it, as well,’’ Clijsters said.

Advancing along with her were No. 10 Shahar Peer, who beat Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-2, and No. 22 Flavia Pennetta, who defeated Lourdes Dominguez 6-2, 6-2.

Seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic lost 7-6 (3), 6-3 to China’s Peng Shuai, continuing an unimpressive streak of seven losses in eight matches. It was her worst result at a major since the 2009 U.S. Open for former No. 1 Jankovic.

Meanwhile, Clijsters has only spent two hours on the court so far, and had plenty of time to joke with the crowd and have a little swipe at on-court interviewer Todd Woodbridge, a former Australian doubles great. She lightheartedly chided Woodbridge about a text message he’d sent to fellow Australian Rennae Stubbs, suggesting Clijsters was showing physical and emotional signs of being pregnant.

“No, I’m not!’’ said Clijsters, who took time off the tour when she married and had a child - daughter Jada, born in February 2008 - before returning to win the U.S. Open in 2009.

While Clijsters has cruised through, Venus Williams has had a challenging time. And so has men’s defending champion Roger Federer.

Williams injured a muscle between her stomach and groin Wednesday as she twisted for a volley. She needed a medical time out after losing the first set. She was on the verge of tears, and apparently elimination. But she refused to stop playing, something she has never done in a Grand Slam match.

The seven-time Grand Slam winner rallied to take the next two sets and defeat Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-4.

Federer faced a more familiar problem - Gilles Simon. He’s one of only three men on the tour with a winning record against the Swiss great. Federer raced to a two-set lead in a second-round night match, and seemed in the clear. He had never while lost so far ahead in a Grand Slam tournament.

Then Simon, who beat Federer twice in 2008 on hard courts in their only two previous encounters, started to take more risks, moving the 16-time Grand Slam champion out of his comfort zone. But Federer persevered, finishing off a 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory on his fifth match point.

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