Clijsters pulls no punches following shock exit

KIM CLIJSTERS blamed a loss of confidence for her shock second-round defeat by Arantxa Rus at the French Open yesterday while Maria Sharapova admitted she was lucky to avoid joining the Belgian in making an early exit.

Second seed Clijsters, who was going for a third consecutive grand slam title, looked in control at a set and 5-2 up but she missed two match points and from there it was all downhill as Rus won 11 of the last 12 games to triumph 3-6 7-5 6-1.

Asked to explain her dramatic slump, Clijsters said: “I’m still trying to figure that out. I felt kind of in control. I felt like she was missing quite a lot at the beginning of the rallies, and I felt that I was moving her around well from side to side.

“Then I started doubting a little bit. I think, on clay, that is something that for me is definitely the wrong attitude to have.

“She obviously started building up more confidence, started playing a lot better and was really putting me on my back foot all the time. I couldn’t really play my aggressive tennis anymore in that third set.”

Sharapova looked in severe danger when she trailed 17-year-old world number 188 Caroline Garcia by a set and 4-1, but the Russian is renowned for her fighting qualities and she did not lose another game in a 3-6 6-4 6-0 victory.

Sharapova said: “It could have easily gone the other way today but I think I knew I had to make an adjustment. I just never think that the match is over until it actually is.”

Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka blitzed Pauline Parmentier of France 6-0 6-1 and is looking like the woman to beat in the bottom half of the draw.

Sixth seed Li Na and ninth seed Petra Kvitova were also straight-sets winners, with the Czech in particular looking like someone who could prove a real threat next week.

In the men’s, Andy Murray declared his mental game to be in great shape after coming through a tricky test against Simone Bolelli.

The Italian lucky loser served for both the first and third sets but Murray showed his fighting qualities to battle back and secure a 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 7-5 victory. “I was happy with the way I fought and came back from two very difficult situations in the first and third sets when he was serving for it, and hung in well when I needed to,” said Murray.

Five-time champion Rafael Nadal again looked unconvincing as he booked a place in the third round with a straight-sets 7-5 6-3 7-6 (7/4) win over fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar.

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