x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Clijsters and Wozniacki quietly confident ahead of Australian Open

Belgian taking it one step at a time in Melbourne.

Kim Clijsters is taking nothing for granted ahead of the Australian Open, which starts today.

The absence of Serena Williams has made Clijsters a strong favourite to land the title, but she countered by saying anything can happen in a major event.

Williams has won five times in Melbourne, including the last two tournaments, but the foot injury that has ruled her out since last summer has sidelined her this year.

Clijsters, 27, won the most recent grand slam, the US Open in September, and showed good form in reaching the final of the Sydney International, where she lost 7-6, 6-3 to Li Na, the Chinese player, yesterday.

The Belgian said: "You really just try to focus on yourself, the way that you're playing. That's what I'm going to do: just try and find my best game out there.

"I feel like I'm hitting the ball well and, injury-wise, there's no problems and that's obviously a big key here in Australia."

Clijsters, the No 3 seed in Melbourne behind Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva, has an awkward-looking opening round match against Dinara Safina, the 2009 finalist and former world No 1, which is scheduled to be played tomorrow. Safina is returning to the game after a back injury curtailed much of her playing time in 2010, and Clijsters added: "There can be so many surprises in a grand slam. Tough players, new players that you don't expect to be doing well can be on a great run. So many things can happen."

Wozniacki is the world No 1 despite having not yet won a major title but, as she opens her challenge today against Gisela Dulko, the Argentine player, she denied she has anything to prove.

"You don't become No 1 by winning small tournaments or getting bad results," she said.

"I am a good player, I won six tournaments last year, I don't have to prove anything."