Clijsters back at French Open after 5-year absence

May 25, 2011 - 4:29 AM
France Tennis French Open

Kim Clijsters of Belgium returns in her match against Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus during the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Tuesday May 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Laurent Baheux)

PARIS (AP) — Right after winning her first Australian Open title, Kim Clijsters started thinking about — and preparing for — the French Open.

The two-time runner-up, who last played on the red clay of Roland Garros in 2006, was looking forward to getting another chance to finally lift the trophy in Paris.

"All my workouts that I was doing with my trainer were all kind of with the clay season in mind, and we were doing longer intervals, kind of knowing that the rallies would be a little bit longer," Clijsters said Tuesday after advancing to the second round. "Everything was kind of set already on this event a few months ago."

But then, in April, she injured her right ankle dancing at her cousin's wedding, putting her participation in doubt.

The injury didn't appear to affect her much, however, because Clijsters passed her first test by beating Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus 6-2, 6-3.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal also reached the second round, but the Spaniard had to survive a scare from big-serving American opponent John Isner and win in five sets. Australian Open finalists Andy Murray and Li Na also advanced, as did Maria Sharapova and two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling.

On Wednesday, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will be back on court in the second round. Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki is also scheduled to play, along with 2010 French Open finalists Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur.

Clijsters said she was excited to make it back to Roland Garros, where she made the final in 2001 and '03.

"My buildup has been weird, but it's been everything with my mind focused on trying to make it to the French Open," Clijsters said. "And when you're here now, yeah, you kind of just want to keep focusing and finish off on what I worked on in those few weeks."

Clijsters nearly didn't make to Paris at all.

She hurt her ankle while dancing barefoot at the wedding and hadn't played a competitive match since.

"It feels steady and good. So it's important now when I get back to the hotel that I ice it a lot and that I take good care of it, and I will have treatment," Clijsters said. "Then tomorrow just make sure I keep mobilizing it so that I don't get more inflammation than I have already."

Nadal was steady on Court Philippe Chatrier, but his 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4 win over Isner was anything but good for him.

"Tough, tough moments for me," said Nadal, a five-time French Open champion who was stretched to five sets at Roland Garros for the first time. "I played too nervous, in my opinion."

In the end, Nadal managed to pull off another victory and improve his French Open record to 39-1. With six more victories, he will equal Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles.

Sharapova came to the French Open once again looking to complete a career Grand Slam. And if she manages to win the tournament, she certainly has the accessories for the championship dinner.

The seventh-seeded Russian, who beat Mirjana Lucic of Croatia 6-3, 6-0, took the court wearing a pair of drop earrings with circles of rose-cut diamonds of various sizes set in platinum.

"Unfortunately, I have to give them back after the tournament. I would prefer to keep them as I think these are one of my favorite pairs I've worn," Sharapova said. "But, yeah, I might keep them for a couple of tournaments."