WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS: Pierce surprises Clijsters

Los Angeles, November 9:

Mary Pierce surprised Kim Clijsters 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 at the WTA Championships in a wildly uneven rematch of the US Open final. Top-ranked Lindsay Davenport improved to 7-0 against Nadia Petrova of Russia with a 6-2, 7-6 victory in round-robin play.

Defending champion Maria Sharapova beat Swiss Patty Schnyder 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, making Schnyder 0-3 in opening matches of the tournament. Davenport didn’t face a break point on her serve. She fired nine aces and connected on 74 per cent of her first serves against Petrova, a first-time singles qualifier in the championships. Clijsters beat Pierce in straight sets to win her first Grand Slam title in September.

This time, Pierce held a match point in the second set at Staples Centre, but Clijsters reeled off three straight points to even the match. Clijsters was off her game from the start, committing 31 unforced errors and 11 double faults. Pierce was equally messy, making 21 errors, although she converted five break chances.

Clijsters broke to open the third set and owned a 3-1 lead before Pierce rallied in her first appearance in the season-ending championships since 1999. Pierce trailed love-40 on her serve before winning five straight points, including a 109-mph ace, to close to 7-2. Clijsters double-faulted to fall into a 4-all tie.

Pierce served a 40-love game to go up 5-4, then Clijsters won two straight games for a 6-5 lead. Clijsters won one point on her serve before being broken at 6-all. Pierce dominated the tiebreaker, winning five of the last six points to close out the match on Clijsters’ backhand error.

No 2 Clijsters is challenging Davenport for the year-end No 1 ranking. They are separated by 155 points, and whoever has the better showing will wind up on top. Clijsters has won a Tour-leading nine titles this year. The loss snapped her 9-match winning streak in the championships, which she won in 2002 and ‘03.

Sharapova earned the only break of the third set in the second game, when Schnyder was held to one point. Sharapova blew two match points leading 5-2, and the 18-year-old Russian faced a break point on her serve in the final game. The women combined for 62 unforced errors and 55 winners.