Clijsters sets aside Jankovic challenge

Zvonareva registers her second straight victory

Kim Clijsters of Belgium returns during her win over Jelena Jankovic  of Serbia in the WTA Championships at Doha on Wednesday. AFP

With Jankovic still suffering from the sinus problems that threatened her participation at the tournament, the Belgian cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 triumph in the White Group clash.
It is another setback for Jankovic who, sinus issues aside, has struggled to find any semblance of form since Wimbledon.

Clijsters, playing at the WTA Championships for the first time since 2006, took advantage of her opponent's woes in ruthless fashion. She won 29 of 45 points in a completely one-sided first set.

The second set was more closely fought, but Jankovic's resistance was decisively wounded in the fifth game when Clijsters snatched a crucial break. "I'm not happy with everything I did today but I will try and remember the positives and take them forward to tomorrow's match," Clijsters said. "I want to be a bit more consistent, hit a few less double faults and try to remember the good things."

Earlier, Vera Zvonareva beat Victoria Azarenka 7-6, 6-4 to claim her second win of the WTA Championships and stay in the hunt for the year-end world number one ranking. In contrast to her straightforward victory over ailing Serb Jelena Jankovic on Tuesday, the Russian was pushed hard by Azarenka, who arrived in the Qatari capital fresh from capturing her second title of the year in Moscow.

After an uninspired opening, punctuated by a bizarre breakdancing interlude on the purple-coloured court following the second changeover, Zvonareva's superior groundstrokes began to tell as Azarenka became increasing erratic and emotional.

The 21-year-old from Belarus squandered a glorious chance to break in the eighth game, letting out a deafening shriek of frustration. The first set went to a tiebreak, Zvonareva breaking immediately to jump out to an early lead and despite struggling on her own serve she wrapped it up 7-4.

In the second set, Zvonareva had the pony-tailed Azarenka on the back foot, arrowing deep backhands to the corners and finding her target with sickening consistency. Despite playing a day earlier, the Russian was the one dictating the pace, pushing Azarenka around the court and forcing her into a string of unforced errors. At 5-4 down, Azarenka saved two match points but she netted a weak forehand on the third to hand victory to the Russian.  In a Tuesday’s late night match, Australian Samantha Stosur beat Francesca Schiavone to gain a measure of revenge for her defeat in the French Open final in June. Italy's Schiavone had raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set but Stosur battled back to win 6-4, 6-4.

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