Azarenka and Clijsters felled in Indian Wells
Originally published on: 16/03/10 13:05
The big guns continue to drop like flies in the women’s draw at the BNP Paribas Open after Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka became the latest names to fall in the Californian desert.
US Open champ Clijsters – who twice won the Indian Wells tournament before her retirement – follows countrywoman Justine Henin out of the event as well as fellow former titlists Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchova and Ana Ivanovic.
Her exit at the hands of the big-hitting Russian Alisa Kleybanova means that 2009 winner Vera Zvonareva is now the only returning former champion left in the draw.
“I definitely think I let it get away,” said Clijsters after losing 6-4 1-6 7-6(4) to the No.23 seed.
“Credit to her. She played some really good points to get back into it. I think a lot of times I felt like the better I started moving her around, the more she’s really good on the run and she really gets those angles where she kept me under pressure.”
The Belgian had won her last 15 matches on the trot in Indian Wells after back-to-back triumphs before her retirement, and looked set to extend that run after breaking for a 3-0 lead in the final set.
And even when the 20-year-old managed to level proceedings, Clijsters looked to be in a comfortable position after racking up a 4-0 advantage in the tiebreak.
But Kleybanova – who won her first WTA tour title at the Malaysian Open after defeating Elena Dementieva – proved unfazed, and battled back with seven points in succession to claim her latest big name scalp.
Lamenting her early exit, Clijsters said: “A lot of people expect the top players to do well, but you see it more and more that in the early rounds, I think it just becomes a lot tougher…
“There’s a lot of younger girls now who are coming up and make it really tough for us. When you’re not playing your absolute best, I think anybody is out there to beat us.”
Third-seeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka suffered a similar fate, exiting in straight sets at the hands of Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
Losing 7-6(4) 6-2 to the 28th seed, the defeat marked Azarenka’s earliest tournament exit this season having reached the final in Dubai, the semi-finals in Sydney and the quarter-final stage at the Australian Open.