January 05, 2010

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) -- Kim Clijsters' career comeback continued to gather momentum Tuesday with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Australia's Alicia Molik at the Brisbane International.

Top-seeded Clijsters won the first eight games in the second-round match until Molik, playing her first top-tier tournament since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, held serve.

Clijsters won the U.S. Open last September in only her third tournament back from more than two years in retirement, becoming the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980.

Clijsters' title inspired a comeback by fellow Belgian and former No. 1-ranked Justine Henin, who won her first tour match since May 2008 on Monday against second-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia.

Having Clijsters and Henin on the opposite ends of the draw sets up the possibility of an intriguing all-Belgian final in Brisbane in the lead up to the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 18 in Melbourne.

Clijsters said she watched Henin's comeback match on TV and was confident that both of them had the potential to return top of the women's tour.

"She was moving really well. Didn't look like she'd left," Clijsters said. "Very impressive I thought."

Clijsters said she was looking forward to another match against Henin, but also wanted to be tested by the other stars of the game.

"Of course, it will be a good challenge, but there's a lot of other girls I look forward to playing as well," she said, picking out Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova and Venus and Serena Williams. "Those are obviously the big matches. And Justine now as well.

"Justine and I, we've been on top of women's tennis for a few years, so hopefully we can get back to that in the next few years."

Former No. 1-ranked Ivanovic struggled in a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 win over Timea Bacsinszky in a late match to reach the quarterfinals.

After dropping the second set, Ivanovic started aggressively in the third by winning the first seven points to hold serve and then earn triple break point. But Bacsinszky rallied to hold and the deciding set remained on serve.

Ivanovic was serving for the match at 5-3 in the third and was two points away at 30-30 but was broken.

In the next game, she earned triple match point with a forehand winner and converted with a forehand winner down the line to finish the match in 1 hour, 41 minutes.

On the men's side, third-seeded Gael Monfils edged American Taylor Dent 7-6 (1), 6-7 (5), 6-2 in a night match that didn't feature a service break until the fifth game of the third set.

James Blake continued his dominance over fifth-seeded Sam Querrey, improving to 6-1 in head-to-heads with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over his fellow American.

In other first-round matches, 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus beat American Mardy Fish 7-5, 7-5 and will next face fourth-seeded Tomas Berdych, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over Australian qualifier Nick Lindahl.

Australia's Carsten Ball had a 7-5, 6-1 win over Germany's Mischa Zverev to set up a match against top-seeded Andy Roddick for a place in the quarterfinals.

Clijsters is already into the quarterfinals against either Alexsandra Wozniak or Lucia Safarova.

She said she hasn't lost any momentum since the end of last season, spending time during the break training in Germany against "lots of guys" to mix it up and fine-tune her game.

"After a few weeks of practicing in the off season I was ready to come out here and play matches," she said. "I like to practice, but when I feel I'm ready, I want to start playing matches. So I was very excited to come out here and play my first matches."

She has only lost six games in her opening two matches in Brisbane, following a 6-2, 6-1 win over Tathiana Garbin in the first round, and her powerful forehand was working well against Molik.

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