Kim Clijsters blew two match points and lost 11 of the last 12 games as she crashed out of the French Open with a 3-6 7-5 6-1 defeat at the hands of Dutch outsider Arantxa Rus in the second round today.
The world number two was playing her first tournament after two months out with an ankle injury and looked understandably rusty in her first-round win over Anastasiya Yakimova.
She seemed to be playing better in the early stages today but her level dropped midway through the second set and the decider was a horror show from Clijsters, whose first appearance at Roland Garros since 2006 was expected to see her challenge for the title.
Rus, ranked 114th in the world, must have feared the worst when Clijsters raced through the first three games but the Dutchwoman dug in and began to trouble her opponent off the ground.
The second seed always had the edge though despite the windy conditions and a run of five hard-fought games in a row gave her the first set, and a 3-0 lead in the second.
Again Rus battled back, and the errors continued to come frequently from the Clijsters racquet, but it always seemed only a matter of time before the 27-year-old strung enough points together to finish things off.
However, after failing to take advantage of a match point at 5-2, she lost six of the next seven points to give her opponent a sniff of a chance, and Rus then saved another match point before levelling proceedings at 5-5.
The 20-year-old was now playing extremely well and she broke Clijsters – whose dream of a third grand slam title in a row was fast fading – for a second successive time before taking the second set with her fifth game in a row.
The Belgian, who did not appear to be moving particularly well, stopped the rot with a gutsy hold at the start of the third set but then let three break points slip away on the Rus serve.
When the Dutchwoman followed up by breaking again, the prospect of an early exit for Clijsters began to look a distinct probability.
The second seed had an outrageous slice of luck when a ball hit the top of the net and then the net post before dropping back into play but any thoughts that might indicate it was her day after all were swiftly dispelled.
A double fault handed Rus a 4-1 lead and she clinched a famous victory and a place in the third round of a grand slam for the first time on her second match point with a backhand winner.