Paris, May 26: After wasting two match points in the second set and feeling her confidence fading, Kim Clijsters let the match slip away Thursday at the French Open. The two-time French Open runner-up, seeded second at this year's tournament, lost to the 114th-ranked Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. “I started doubting a little bit,” said Clijsters, who was playing only her second match since a right ankle injury knocked her out of action. “When you start doubting yourself on any surface, but for me definitely on clay, it's the wrong attitude to have.”
Maria Sharapova also struggled, but the seventh-seeded Russian won 11 straight games after trailing 4-1 in the second set and beat 17-year-old Caroline Garcia of France 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. No. 6 Li Na of China and No. 9 Petra Kvitova also advanced. On the men's side, five-time champion Rafael Nadal, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray, two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling and No. 10 Mardy Fish of the United States reached the third round.
Clijsters, who had won her last 15 Grand Slam matches after taking the titles at last year's US Open and this year's Australian Open, failed to convert either match point in the second set. Playing with her right ankle taped, the Belgian made 65 unforced errors in the match and lost 11 of the final 12 games. Rus finished with only 22 unforced errors and had only eight winners in the entire match. Clijsters injured her right ankle while dancing at her cousin's wedding in April, sidelining her until the French Open. She last played at Roland Garros in 2006, when she reached the semifinals. The last time Clijsters was eliminated this early at a major tournament was when she lost in the second round at Wimbledon in 2002.
Rus, the 2008 Australian Open junior champion, reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. A few hours later on the same center court, Sharapova was at first outplayed by Garcia, a French wild card who was the youngest player remaining in the women's draw. “She played unbelievable in the first set and a half,” Sharapova said. “There wasn't much I could do.” But despite the strong wind on Court Philippe Chatrier, Sharapova was able to get her game under control and take charge.
Two days after Nadal was pushed to five sets for the first time in his career at Roland Garros, the top-ranked Spaniard won in three, beating Pablo Andujar of Spain 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (4). Nadal trailed 5-1 in the third set but forced the tiebreaker. He will next face Antonio Veic of Croatia, who eliminated No. 28 Nikolay Davydenko 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.
Soderling showed he too was a force with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over Albert Ramos. Cheered on by a smattering of Swedes with painted faces on a half-full and windy Court Suzanne Lenglen, Soderling displayed why he is so dangerous on clay with strengths in all areas making up for an occasional inability to kill off a point. American 10th seed Fish wrapped up a 7-6 6-2 6-1 triumph over Robin Haase but compatriot Sam Querrey lost out to Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia and Spain's Fernando Verdasco defeated Xavier Malisse in four sets. Among the women, Czech dark horse Petra Kvitova made her move on the outside with a 6-4 6-1 victory over China's Zheng Jie and 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska also reached the third round by overcoming India's Sania Mirza 6-2 6-4.AP