MELBOURNE // Belgium's Kim Clijsters said she felt sorry for Dinara Safina after inflicting the dreaded "double bagel" on the Russian with a 6-0, 6-0 first round triumph at the Australian Open yesterday.
It was an embarrassingly lopsided match between two former world No 1s, Safina fighting back the tears as she trudged to the net after a 44-minute humiliation.
"I do feel bad," Clijsters told reporters. "I even caught myself at 5-0 in the second set, she hit a couple of backhands down the line, I was like 'Yeah, that's it!'
"When she doesn't play against me, I'm rooting for her because I want her to get back into it and build confidence."
Clijsters added with a smile: "But I wouldn't give her a [sympathy] game."
When Venus Williams beat Safina 6-1, 6-0 in the Wimbledon semi-finals two years ago, the result was the most lopsided win over a current world No 1 at a grand slam event.
Yesterday, the Russian suffered a new low when the WTA said she became the first woman to have been ranked No 1 to lose 6-0, 6-0 since the standings system began in 1975.
Clijsters, a three-time grand slam champion and Melbourne finalist in 2004, insisted Safina could still find a way out of her slump in form.
"It's obviously a big matter of confidence as well," said Clijsters, who won two of her major titles after returning to the game in 2009 following a two-year break.
"That game is still in her. She didn't get to No 1 just by luck."
Safina was not the only former world No 1 bundled out of the Australian Open yesterday as Serbia's Ana Ivanovic was beaten 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 by Russian Ekaterina Makarova.
Ivanovic blamed an abdominal strain but promised to break back into the top 10 from her position of 20th.
"Lots of positives came out of this match," she said. "I certainly still believe I can get back to top 10 and I believe I can do it in this year."