Clijsters' path opens up


MELBOURNE, Australia -- No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters' draw just keeps getting better and better. With Venus Williams losing, she's the heavy favorite to get to the finals on the bottom half. A week ago, Clijsters had a bad foot and didn't even know if she could play here.

Nathalie Dechy, France, vs. Patty Schnyder (22), Switzerland
Dechy likes playing on Rebound Ace. She won a tournament leading up to the Australian Open. Schnyder is a stubborn opponent. Schnyder's a danger and an awkward left-hand opponent. Bookmakers would make the odds even, however, look for Dechy to win.

Pick: Dechy

Tatiana Golovin, France, vs. Lisa Raymond (25), United States
Golovin will turn 16 on Sunday. The French must think the world of her, since they gave her a valuable wild card spot they got in a trade with the Australian Open for wild cards at Roland Garros. It's nice to see she's made the most of it. Her ranking will go up after this.

For Raymond, she's in the exact opposite position than she was against Venus Williams. In that match, she was the one with nothing to lose. Now that she's beaten Venus the pressure is on to win. Often after a player has a big upset, there's a letdown in the next match. This is an awkward match for Raymond to play because she doesn't know much about Golovin. Raymond had a great game plan against Venus, and Raymond plays better with a definite game plan.
Pick: Raymond

Anastasia Myskina (6), Russia, vs. Chanda Rubin (9), United States
Myskina is playing a little more consistent than Rubin. She's ranked slightly higher and had a big win over Maria Sharapova giving her a mental edge in this next round. So she should come out relaxed against Rubin.

However, Rubin is playing better with each match. She won the last two matches in straight sets. Her best memories of a major were here at the Aussie in '96. But Myskina had a great end to the year, qualifying for the WTA Championships and finishing the year in the top 10 for the first time.
Pick: Myskina

Silvia Farina Elia (20), Italy, vs. Kim Clijsters (2), Belgium
This match against Farina Elia is a formality. Farina Elia has experience and will remember what worked against Clijsters' in the past. Even though Clijsters sometimes loses focus and so has lost a set to Farina Elia in the past meetings, she shouldn't lose two sets.
Pick: Clijsters