PARIS, France, May 26 – Second seed Kim Clijsters crashed out of the French Open on Thursday as Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus sent the US and Australian Open champion spinning to her worst Grand Slam defeat in nine years.
US and Australian Open champion Clijsters, playing in Paris for the first time in five years, had been cruising at one stage, leading by a set and 5-2 against the world number 114 before going down 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.
The 27-year-old Belgian suffered an astonishing collapse, squandering two match points in the eighth and 10th games of the second set against an opponent who had never before got beyond the second round at a Grand Slam.
Clijsters, whose participation had been in doubt after suffering a freak ankle injury while dancing at a cousin’s wedding, struggled to find any rhythm in the second round match, played on a blustery Philippe Chatrier court.
She committed a total of 65 unforced errors and 10 double faults before Rus unleashed a giant forehand to wrap up her biggest career win after two hours of action.
It was Clijsters’ earliest Grand Slam exit since a second round loss in Paris in 2002.
"I played really well today. Now I will have to make sure I play like this every day," said the slender 1.80m Rus, who was named in honour of Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, who won Roland Garros in 1989, 1994 and 1998.
There was no sign of the drama to come in the early stages as Clijsters, the runner-up in 2001 and 2003, took a 3-0 lead in both the first two sets before she allowed the wiry Dutch girl to claw her way back.
Clijsters squandered two match points in the second set as left-hander Rus recovered from 2-5 down to level at 5-5 and then nipped ahead with a break to lead 6-5.
Rus levelled the tie when Clijsters unleashed a wild forehand.
Clijsters won the opening game of the decider, but that was as good as it got for the Belgian as Rus swept the next six games in succession.
Rus will face either Russia’s Maria Kirilenko or Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa for a place in the last 16.
She is the first Dutchwoman to make the third round of a Grand Slam since Michaella Kracijek at Wimbledon in 2007.
Clijsters’ early defeat also means that Caroline Wozniacki will retain her world number one spot at the end of the French Open.