- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NEW YORK — After what could have been the last match of Kim Clijsters‘ career — and, instead, might one day be remembered as the first significant match of Victoria Duval’s — the two players posed in the locker room for a photo.

No, it wasn’t the 16-year-old Duval who requested the picture.

It was the 29-year-old Clijsters who wanted a snapshot.

“I thought that was so nice, because I was the one that should be begging her for a picture,” Duval said, giggling all the while. “She’s definitely my idol.”


There are, it’s fair to say, plenty of other up-and-coming tennis players who feel that way about Clijsters, who extended her U.S. Open winning streak to 22 matches by beating wild-card recipient Duval 6-3, 6-1 on Monday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Clijsters has left Flushing Meadows as the champion each of the last three times she entered the field — in 2005, 2009 and 2010. She missed the hard-court Grand Slam tournament in 2011 because of an injured stomach muscle. That’s only one in a long line of ailments that have dogged Clijsters throughout her playing days, which she says will come to an end after the U.S. Open, no matter how well she fares.

“It was a special occasion. … I was nervous, maybe almost as much as she was,” Clijsters said of facing Duval, who is ranked 562nd and was making her tour-level main-draw debut after winning the under-18 U.S. national championship.

“I’m happy that I’m still here,” Clijsters added, “and still winning some matches.”

It’s not clear how much longer some other members of her generation will keep playing and winning — players such as seven-time major champion Venus Williams, who is 32, and 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, who turns 30 this week. Both were scheduled to be in first-round action on Tuesday, along with Williams’ younger sister, 14-time major champion Serena, and defending champion Novak Djokovic.

They’ll be hoping to move into the second round as easily as 2006 champion Maria Sharapova did Monday, a nice change from the last time she was on a tennis court with something at stake.

Playing for the first time since taking only one game from Serena Williams in a lopsided London Olympics gold-medal match, Sharapova needed barely more than an hour to deal with the whipping winds and, to a lesser extent, 88th-ranked Melinda Czink of Hungary.

After her 6-2, 6-2 win, Sharapova went into a bit of a tongue-in-cheek discussion of the stomach virus that plagued her at the Summer Games and then forced her out of two hard-court tuneup tournaments this month.

She went to the doctor for a series of tests, including an ultrasound to see if she was pregnant. The test turned up negative.

“Just because of the pain I was having, it was really weird,” said Sharapova, who is engaged to former NBA player Sasha Vujacic. “They told me I was fine, not pregnant. Then, I’m like, ‘Can I get my money back?’”

As for what could have been a real depressing defeat in the Olympic final, Sharapova said she’s over it.

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