MELBOURNE, Australia — Kim Clijsters cruised into the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday, beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3 in another impressive victory.
U.S. Open champion Clijsters opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win over former No. 1-ranked Dinara Safina, but Suarez Navarro was a potentially dangerous second-round matchup. The 22-year-old Spaniard beat Venus Williams in a second-round upset in her first trip to Melbourne Park two years ago.
“She is a tough player. She’s tricky. The balls bounce so much different than for my first round,” Clijsters said. “I was just happy with the way that I played. I tried to play both sides of the court, tried to be aggressive and dictate the points. And it worked.”
With defending champion Serena Williams not playing in Australia due to a prolonged foot problem, third-seeded Clijsters is hopeful of going one better than her previous best performance at Melbourne Park — she lost the 2004 final.
It was at this same stage last year that Clijsters absorbed her worst loss in a major, a 6-0, 6-1 drubbing by Nadia Petrova. Clijsters said she doesn’t dwell on the loss, and doesn’t think it will influence her preparations for this weekend.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played a match like that. So it was very easy in a way to also forget about it, as well,” she said.
Also advancing into the third round were No. 10 Shahar Peer, a 6-3, 6-2 winner against Sorana Cirstea, and No. 22 Flavia Pennetta, who beat Lourdes Dominguez 6-2, 6-2.
Seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic lost 7-6 (3), 6-3 to China’s Peng Shuai, continuing an unimpressive streak of seven losses in eight matches. It was former world No. 1 Jankovic’s worst result at a major since the 2009 U.S. Open.
Meanwhile, Clijsters has spent just two hours on court so far, leaving plenty of time to joke with the crowd and take a little swipe at on-court interviewer Todd Woodbridge, a former Australian doubles great. She lightheartedly chided Woodbridge about a text message he’d sent to fellow Australian Rennae Stubbs, suggesting Clijsters was showing physical and emotional signs of being pregnant.
“No, I’m not!” said Clijsters, who took time off the tour when she married and had a child — daughter Jada, born in February 2008 — before returning to win the U.S. Open in 2009.
While Clijsters has advanced with ease, Venus Williams has had a challenging time. The same for defending men’s champion Roger Federer.
Williams injured a muscle between her stomach and groin Wednesday as she twisted for a volley. She needed a medical timeout after losing the first set. She was on the verge of tears, and apparently elimination. But she refused to stop playing, something she has never done in a Grand Slam match.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner rallied to take the next two sets and defeat Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-4.
Federer faced a more familiar problem — Gilles Simon. He’s one of only three men on tour with a winning record against the Swiss great. Federer raced to a two-set lead in a second-round night match, and seemed in the clear. He had never while lost so far ahead in a Grand Slam tournament.
Then Simon, who beat Federer twice in 2008 on hard courts in their only two previous encounters, started to take more risks, moving the 16-time Grand Slam champion out of his comfort zone. But Federer persevered, finishing off a 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory on his fifth match point.
“I’m happy I survived a scare like today. It’s not the first time … it does happen,” he said. “You just try to stay calm even though I’m not playing for much. He’s playing for the huge upset, and I’m just trying to get through. But, look, I handled it well tonight, and I’m very happy that things turned out so nicely at the end.”
The only other two active players with winning records against Federer play in the second round Thursday — Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
The top-ranked Nadal will be aiming for his 23rd consecutive victory in Grand Slam play when he faces American qualifier Ryan Sweeting. The muscular Spaniard is bidding for a “Rafa Slam” — holding all four majors at once.
Murray, ranked No. 5 and the losing finalist last year, plays Illya Marchenko of Ukraine in a night match on Margaret Court Arena.