(18 JAN.) It only took Kim 47 minutes to get past Stéphanie Foretz Gacon and thus reach the 3rd round of the Australian Open.
It seems there are few things that former world No.1 Kim Clijsters can't do on court. Today she played the role of conductor, first leading opponent Stéphanie Foretz Gacon a merry dance, then she led the Rod Laver Arena fans in a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' for her sister, Elke, who turns 27 today.
Entering her 10th Australian Open and first as defending champion, most of the pre-tournament discussion centred around Kim's hip, which she injured in Brisbane. Had it healed? Would she be her usual self on court? Any chance she may be an early withdrawal? Sadly for her ill-equipped opponent, the answer to those questions are yes, yes and no.
Kim moved freely around the court today, not that she was stretched a great deal. The Belgian's natural inclination to move forward and attack was at its best as she heaped the pressure on Foretz Gacon from the very first game.The Frenchwoman struggled under the weight of the Australian Open 2011 champion’s groundstrokes. For most of the match she tried to go shot for shot with Kim, a tactic that did not hold up in the heat of the day. For too long Foretz Gacon played the role of retriever, but Kim regularly conjured shots that Superman would have had trouble returning. And when Foretz Gacon did try to attack, it was too little too late.
'I was hitting the ball well; felt that I could keep her under pressure. I didn't really let her play her game. From the beginning till the end, I did what I had to do well', said Kim.
On the other side of the net, Kim's modus operandi was simple: attack. She broke Foretz Gacon in the second game of the match and then did so twice more to take the opening set to love in a mere 22 minutes.
At times Foretz Gacon battled to deuce on Kim's serve, but she lacked the killer punch when she needed it. Time and again Kim was let off the hook by an unforced error or a short ball that could be turned into an easy winner.
The Frenchwoman didn't make an impression on the scoreboard until early in the second set, but any thoughts of a fightback were soon extinguished.
Both the 11th seed's forehand and backhand were on song today as Kim racked up 16 winners to Foretz Gacon’s 2, and she said she found the rhythm that was missing in her opening-round win over Maria Joao Koehler.
And that's bad news for Daniela Hantuchova, Kim's 3rd round opponent. Born just six weeks apart, these two know each other well and last met in Brisbane two weeks ago when Clijsters was forced to retire. But now, recovered and back to her best, Clijsters will be looking forward to her 3rd round match with Hantuchova where she will be hoping to continue on her merry way. No doubt the former top five Slovak will do everything in her power to disrupt the Belgian's rhythm and make her march to the beat of her drum. Their 3rd round match is scheduled this Friday at 7pm local time on Hisense Arena.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELKE!
(adapted from www.australianopen.com)