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Friday November 11, 2005

Belgian Clijsters faces early exit after second defeat


LOS ANGELES: Kim Clijsters' hopes of a fairytale finish to her dream season were all but doused on Wednesday as the US Open champion fell in straight sets to Amelie Mauresmo at the WTA Tour Championships. 

RIDING HIGH: Amelie Mauresmo of France serves to Belgian Kim Clijsters in their WTA Tour Championships Black Group match in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Mauresmo won 6-3, 7-6. – REUTERSpic
France's Mauresmo attacked behind a solid serve to beat Clijsters 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), the Belgian's second straight round-robin defeat putting her on the brink of elimination in the elite eight-woman season finale. 

The 22-year-old, whose nine titles this year include her first career Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows in September, said she felt better than she had in falling to Mary Pierce on Tuesday, but still not as sharp as she should be. 

Although she saved two match points in the ninth game of the second set, and clawed back a break in the next game to force the tiebreaker, it wasn't enough. 

“I haven't been hitting the ball cleanly,” she said. “Seeing the ball well, that's something I haven't had the last two days.” 

Mauresmo made good use of her slice backhand and came up with big serves at crucial moments to keep Clijsters at bay. 

Now Clijsters' fate hinges not only on her own last round-robin result but also on the other remaining Black Group matches, including Thursday's clash between Mauresmo and Elena Dementieva. 

Pierce was at the top of the group after rolling past Russia's Dementieva 6-2, 6-3 to notch her 500th career victory. 

Also on the brink of reaching the semi-finals was American Lindsay Davenport, who subdued a tenacious Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 6-3, 7-5. 

Davenport led the Green Group with two wins in two matches, her hold on the year-end world number one ranking looking more secure by the minute. 

But Davenport said she would have to raise her game against her next opponent, Russian Maria Sharapova, after an often frustrating outing against Schnyder. 

The second set evolved into a series of service breaks, Davenport double faulting on break point in the ninth game to fall behind 5-4 and give Schnyder a chance to serve for the set. 

The Swiss player couldn't capitalise, dropping her own serve for 5-5 before Davenport finally managed to put two games together to take the match. 

Pierce, in contrast has looked confident and in control, showing no sign of late-season fatigue. 

She was further energised to learn that it was her 500th career victory, a milestone that only three currently active players have achieved – Davenport (695) and Conchita Martinez (739). 

“Sweet. That is just amazing – 500,” she said. “I am proud of that.” – AFP  

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