Kim Clijsters began preparation for the defense of her Australian Open singles title with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Romania’s Simona Halep in the first round of the Brisbane International yesterday.
Clijsters beat China’s Li Na in the final at last year’s opening Grand Slam at Melbourne Park. This year’s Australian Open begins on Jan. 16.
“I felt that I was playing aggressively and moving well, so I was pretty satisfied,” Clijsters said of yesterday’s win.
She also said the abdominal problem that forced her to retire from a number of tournaments, including the US Open, last year had left no lingering problems with her serving action.
“I felt confident with my serve. I think that’s something that, in the past, wasn’t always the case,” she said.
In another match yesterday, 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy advanced to the second round when her opponent, Ksenia Pervak of Russia, retired with a headache at 4-4 in the opening set.
Top-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia plays her first-round match today, as will Serena Williams, who Stosur defeated in last year’s US Open final.
In men’s play, James Duckworth of Australia beat Nicolas Mahut of France 6-4, 6-4. Top-seeded Andy Murray plays his first-round singles match tomorrow.
Murray combined with former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis to beat Santiago Giraldo of Colombia and Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 6-2 in a first-round doubles match yesterday at Pat Rafter Arena.
Murray reached the Australian Open final and the semi-finals of the other three Grand Slams last season. He has lost in two other major finals, including the Australian Open in 2010.
Meanwhile, Williams said she doesn’t regret her outburst during last year’s US Open final and warns she would do it again if her emotions are as high as they were during her loss to Stosur.
Williams reacted angrily when chair umpire Eva Asderaki ruled that her shout of “come on!” after hitting a forehand was a hindrance and awarded a point to Stosur.
Following the ruling, Williams directed a torrent of abuse at Asderaki — including calling her a “hater” and “unattractive inside” — and was subsequently fined for the outburst.
However, speaking before her first-round match at the Brisbane International, Williams said she couldn’t see anything wrong with her actions.
“I honestly think I was really toned down, like I didn’t use any bad language or anything so I wouldn’t change it so much,” she said.
“When you’re [full of] emotion that’s kind of how you feel,’ she added. “And I’m an emotional player and I’m an extremely emotional person, oh my goodness, it was what it was.”
“I’m always going to be me — if that means I’m giving 200 percent, then that’s how I am,” Williams said. “I love that and I think people can respect that when they see me play.”
Williams takes on South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers today and could play Stosur in the semi-finals if the draw goes according to the seedings.