Former world number one Kim Clijsters made a triumphant return to the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows as she routed Viktoriya Kutuzova of the Ukraine in their first round match on Monday.
The Belgian ace has never lost to a player ranked outside the top 10 at the hard court grand slam and offered Kutuzova little respite during a 54-minute match. Clijsters was later joined in the second round by defending champion Serena Williams, who beat fellow American Alexa Glatch 6-4 6-1, and Venus Williams, who squeezed out a 6-7 7-5 6-3 win over Vera Dushevina. Serena Williams, bidding for her third grand slam of the year, dropped her service when leading 5-2 in the opening set, but after claiming the opener was never troubled by her 19-year-old opponent. Clijsters was equally impressive as she beat world number 79 Kutuzova 6-1 6-1 to set up a second round match against 14th seed Marion Bartoli of France, a 6-1 6-0 winner over Rossana De Los Rios. Clijsters beat former Wimbledon runner-up Bartoli when she returned to the WTA Tour after a two-year break in Cincinnati earlier this month. Clijsters was playing her first match at Flushing Meadows since beating Mary Pierce to claim the 2005 U.S. Open title. She was unable to defend her crown due to injury and retired in May 2007 to marry and have a child.
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The 26-year-old, opening the tournament on the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court, made a blistering start and won the first seven points to gain an early break against a nervy Kutuzova. Clijsters had to work hard to hold her service for 3-0 and broke again as Kutuzova double faulted at 15-40 in the next game. The 21-year-old finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth game, but Clijsters served out for the set in just 28 minutes. The second set followed a similar pattern with Clijsters gaining an early break and she quickly ran up a 4-1 lead.
Her demoralized opponent then conceded the final eight points in a row to give Clijsters the most comfortable of passages. In other early women’s singles action on Monday, eighth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus made the second round with a 6-1 6-1 victory over Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru.