If the French Open women's draw wasn't wide open before, it is now.
Kim Clijsters, winner of the last two Grand Slams, was bounced from the tournament Thursday by 20-year-old Aranxta Rus of The Netherlands, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. The Dutch youngster entered the year's second Grand Slam ranked No. 114 in the world.
Clijsters blew two match points in the second set and then unraveled in the third, suffering a 6-1 drubbing that was reminsicent of her 6-0, 6-1 loss to Nadia Petrova at last year's Australian Open. After holding that match point at 5-2, Clijsters went on to lose 11 of the next 12 games, including at 5-4 when she failed to capitalize on another match point.
She hit 65 unforced errors and 10 double faults in the loss. By the end, she was spraying shots all over the court. When Clijsters was packing her bag to walk off the court, there was a hint of tears in her eyes.
Following the match, no less an authority than Martina Navratilova called it one of the biggest upsets she could remember at the French Open.
The four-time Grand Slam champion hadn't played a match since Miami in March. She suffered an ankle injury the next month while dancing at her nephew's wedding and was forced to miss the entire clay court season. On Thursday, it appeared that he may have come back too soon.
She insisted the ankle was ready. "Physically everything was fine," she told reporters after the match. Later, she admitted that there were doubts about whether she should have returned.
"It's better to try than not to try," she said. "I definitely don't regret it."
With Clijsters gone from the bottom quarter of the draw, Maria Sharapova becomes the new favorite to make the semifinals. There's still a fair amount of competition in the bracket, including from Agnieszka Radwanska, Maria Kirilenko, Yanina Wickmayer and Andrea Petkovic, but if Sharapova's serve is clicking, Clijsters' loss could be Maria's gain.
- Kim Clijsters