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Belgian Awful: Clijsters Loses, 6-4, 6-0

Tennis: 2001 finalist is routed by 87th-ranked Fernandez and joins countrywoman Henin on French Open sideline.

June 01, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PARIS — There were two ways to look at the first two ragged rounds of 2001 French Open finalist Kim Clijsters of Belgium. Either her trials would make her better in the latter stages or this fragility was a precursor of an early exit.

The answer came Friday, in 66 minutes. Clarisa Fernandez of Argentina turned in the first week's biggest upset on the women's side, defeating the fourth-seeded Clijsters, 6-4, 6-0, in the third round at the French Open. Well ... make that the most significant result since an ailing Justine Henin, another Belgian, lost Tuesday to the unheralded Aniko Kapros of Hungary.

A week ago, the Belgians were considered potential winners. Clijsters had established herself as a viable contender by defeating Venus Williams in the Hamburg final. Henin, a 2001 French Open semifinalist, had split two finals against Serena Williams in May.

At least there was an obvious reason for Henin's loss, as she was visibly sick. Clijsters said her often-injured arm did not bother her against the left-handed Fernandez, but she appeared to lack the energy and patience to work the points on a clay court. Fernandez, ranked 87th, had never won a Grand Slam match before the French Open.

"My whole body just felt a little more heavier," said Clijsters, who had 59 unforced errors and lost the final eight games. "I tried to go for too many shots."

Said the sixth-seeded Monica Seles, who beat Ludmilla Cervanova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-2: "This is the one tournament in the past that has very unpredictable winners--as we've seen. So who knows? Kim and Justine both losing in the early rounds, I did not expect that."

It was a day of up-and-down emotions at Roland Garros. Because of the early afternoon World Cup soccer match between France and Senegal, there were more spectators watching tennis around noon than at 2 p.m.

An afternoon bomb scare also rattled nerves on the grounds. Court 1 was evacuated during the third set of the match between Carlos Moya of Spain and Guillermo Canas of Argentina when security agents discovered an abandoned briefcase and overcoat in the upper deck. Officials asked for spectators to calmly leave, the players were taken off for 40 minutes, and the bomb squad went into action, exploding the briefcase as a precaution (there was no bomb).

"Well, this is something that never happened before when I've been playing," Moya said.

The 15th-seeded Canas beat Moya, 4-6, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2, in 4 hours 28 minutes.

Though the main show court was only one-third full during Lleyton Hewitt's match, which was played during the soccer game, drama returned by nightfall. The most electric match was between Arnaud Clement of France and 2001 finalist Alex Corretja of Spain; it lasted 4 hours 11 minutes.

Corretja won, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 5-7, 8-6, and the fifth set lasted 79 minutes. He survived four match points and on one of them, Clement had the chance to put it away with an easy volley but hit it back to Corretja. The crowd started to celebrate when Clement went for the volley, and Corretja was as surprised as anyone to get another crack at it.

"When I saw he was going to volley one meter from the net, I thought it was over," Corretja said. "I thought it was kind of a miracle.... If I have a few more matches like this, I will truly die."

After Corretja shook hands with Clement, he dropped to his knees and kissed the clay.

"I have the taste of clay in my mouth and it's an awful taste," Corretja said. "If I could have reached God, I would have kissed God Himself."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Day 5 Highlights

Men's seeded losers: No. 17 Carlos Moya, No. 30 Sjeng Schalken.

Men's seeded winners: No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 3 Tommy Haas, No. 7 Gustavo Kuerten, No. 15 Guillermo Canas, No. 18 Alex Corretja, No. 20 Albert Costa, No. 22 Andrei Pavel.

Women's seeded losers: No. 4 Kim Clijsters, No. 18 Tatiana Panova, No. 23 Anne Kremer, No. 27 Nathalie Dechy, No. 31 Rita Grande.

Women's seeded winners: No. 2 Venus Williams, No. 6 Monica Seles, No. 10 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova, No. 13 Elena Dementieva.

Featured matches: No. 1 Jennifer Capriati vs. Evie Dominikovic, No. 4 Andre Agassi vs. Tommy Robredo, No. 11 Juan Carlos Ferrero vs. Guillermo Coria.

Stat of the day: 59--unforced errors by Clijsters in her 6-4, 6-0, loss to Clarisa Fernandez of Argentina.

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