Blake, Mauresmo move on in Sydney International

Updated: January 9, 2007, 2:23 AM ET
Reuters

SYDNEY, Australia -- Belgian Kim Clijsters demolished Nicole Pratt to charge into the Sydney International quarterfinals after top seed Amelie Mauresmo struggled to beat Tatiana Golovin on Tuesday.

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Clijsters followed her weekend victory over Maria Sharapova in Hong Kong by crushing Australian Pratt 6-1, 6-2 with a powerful display that augers well for her prospects at next week's Australian Open.

Her stunning performance was in stark contrast to the jittery, nervous display by Australian Open champion Mauresmo, who overcame a slow start to beat her fellow Frenchwoman 6-7, 7-5, 6-1.

Mauresmo lost the first set in a tiebreak and failed to serve out the second set at the first attempt when she led 5-3 before regaining her composure and running away with the third.

"I think we both didn't play our best level," Mauresmo said.

"I'm still looking for some rhythm, for some quickness around the court, and also tactically a few things here and there to adjust.

"But it's the kind of match that is good for you. You can only get better, and it's good for the confidence. Physically I seemed to be alright in the third set, so a few positive things and a few things to keep working on."

Mauresmo, playing her first competitive match in Australia since her breakthrough victory at last year's Open, plays Jelena Jankovic for a place in the semis after the Serb beat Australia's Samantha Stosur 6-2, 7-6.

Jankovic captured her second WTA title on Saturday at the Auckland Classic in New Zealand and opened her Sydney campaign with a three-set victory over former world No. 1 Martina Hingis.

Jankovic ended 2006 ranked 12th in the world but is almost certain to break into the top 10 after spending the offseason training in Colombia and winning her first seven matches this year.

"I don't have many points to defend … so I have a pretty good chance to go in the top 10, but I don't want to really think about that. I just want to play my matches and enjoy," she said.

James Blake made a flying start to his defense of the men's title with a 6-3, 6-4 first-round win over fellow American Kevin Kim at the Sydney Olympic tennis center.

Blake enjoyed his best season on the professional circuit last year, winning five titles, but said his aim for 2007 was to peak at the grand slams.

"It's not going to be easy, but I would love to have as much success as I had here last year and then maybe take it to Melbourne with even more confidence and, hopefully, go a little further," he said.

"I'm definitely looking forward to this tournament and the whole rest of the Australian summer."

Seventh-seed Patty Schnyder was an early casualty in the women's draw, losing 7-6, 6-2 to Israel's Shahar Peer, and eighth-seed Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic downed Ukrainian qualifier Yuliana Fedak 6-3, 6-1.

Czech qualifier Ivo Minar advanced to the second round after Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan retired with a wrist injury while trailing 6-2, 3-0. Sixth seed Richard Gasquet of France defeated Germany's Benjamin Becker 6-1, 6-4.

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