Sharapova sinks in Hong Kong final
Clijster, who announced she will retire at the end of the season, led from the start to beat Sharapova 6-3 7-6.Updated: Jan 06, 2007 19:25 IST
Belgian star Kim Clijsters's final year as a professional got off to a perfect start on Saturday when she beat world number two Maria Sharapova in straight sets to win the Hong Kong invitational.
In a match seen as an indicator of form before the Australian Open, the world number five - who announced here she will retire at the end of the season -- led from the start to beat Sharapova 6-3 7-6.
The Russian glamour girl put in a dazzling display, with some tremendous passing shots and eight aces.
But Clijsters' big serve and punishing ground strokes were too much for Sharapova, who was still showing some of the sluggishness that made her first round win over China's Yan Zi look fortunate.
Sharapova was first to break at 2-2 in the second set but Clijsters won every game of the set from then on.
Hardly a serve was held in the second set and Sharapova frittered away a handful of set points with some poorly judged backhands.
She managed to take Clijsters to a tie-break, but even with the Belgian serving two double faults at 6-7, Sharapova was unable to capitalise, succumbing eventually 10-8.
"It was nice because I felt very comfortable out there," Clijsters said afterwards. "You just have to get the rhythm in the beginning and I felt like I was returning well."
She said she had shrugged off the injuries that had forced her to miss much of the past couple of seasons and was feeling strong going into the Australian Open in Melbourne.