Kim Clijsters blamed a loss of confidence for her shock second-round defeat by Arantxa Rus at the French Open today.
The second seed, 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.”
Clijsters was playing at the French Open for the first time since 2006 and in her first tournament of any kind since March following an ankle injury sustained at a cousin’s wedding.
The Belgian refused to blame that for her loss, though, saying: “My ankle feels fine, so that has absolutely nothing to do with it.
“I made the best of the situation that I was in and I tried to go for it. If I felt like I wasn’t ready as much as I would have liked to be, I wouldn’t have come here.”
Clijsters was a major doubt for the tournament because of her lack of preparation but she insisted she had no regrets about her decision to play in Paris.
“I’m happy that I did that, that I gave myself the opportunity,” she added. “It’s better to try than not to try, that’s my attitude.
“I’m not going to sit here and say maybe I shouldn’t have come here. That’s the attitude of a real loser I think. I gave it the best that I had and with my abilities that I had. So I definitely don’t regret it.”
Rus, through to the third round of a grand slam for the first time, described the victory as the biggest of her career.
The 20-year-old, who is ranked outside the top 100, said: “This is for sure my biggest win. It was really nice to play against her. She’s a real hero. I played fantastic tennis.
“When I was 5-2 down in the second set, I was thinking, ’Just go for it and play more aggressive.’ And that really helped. At 6-5 I had a really good serve game, and then I won the set. Then I was thinking, ’Yeah, I can win this match.”’
There were no problems for ninth seed and dark horse Petra Kvitova, who eased past Zheng Jie 6-4 6-1, while 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska saw off India’s Sania Mirza 6-2 6-4.
At least one Belgian did make it through, 21st seed Yanina Wickmayer beating Ayumi Morita 6-4 7-5, but 27th seed Alexandra Dulgheru was dumped out by fellow Romanian Sorana Cirstea.