Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin rolled back the years as the pair of comeback players powered into the fourth round at Wimbledon, their recent retirements from the game now just fading memories.
Eighth seed Clijsters, who returned from her own exile after having a child and won the 2009 US Open only weeks into her comeback, defeated Russia’s Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-3.
The unseeded Henin rolled Nadia Petrova, the number 12, by a 6-1, 6-4 scoreline, her 14th win in 16 matches with the Russian. Henin was playing on Centre Court for the first time since a 2007 loss in the semifinals to Marion Bartoli.
Long-time national rivals Henin and Clijsters will now play the battle of Belgium in the fourth round.
“It could go either way, that just shows in the results we’ve had against each other, all the matches,” said Clijsters, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2003 and 2006.
“It’s 50/50. Against someone like Justine you never know. You have to bring your best if you want to have a chance to win. So that’s what I’m going to have to do. You have to try to play your best tennis to beat the best.”
Henin, who quit as world number one for 18 months but reversed her decision in time to start the 2010 season, stresses that she cannot be considered a title favourite.
The seven-time Grand Slam champion has lost two Wimbledon finals, in 2001 and 2006. Working her way back into the game, her rankings has climbed to 16th.
“We play different kind of tennis. Kim is very powerful, but she’s moving very well, and she has big weapons in his game. She’s a real fighter also, her attitude is unbelievable. “I just try to use different kind of things. I have to move forward and be very aggressive if I want to have a chance.”
In other results, five-time champion and second seed Venus Williams beat Alisa Kleybanova 6-4, 6-2.
Fourth-seed Jelena Jankovic needed two trainer visits in her second set for tapings on the way to a defeat of Alona Bondarenko 6-0, 6-3. French 11th seed Marion Bartoli put out Hungarian Greta Arn 6-3, 6-4.
On the men’s side, Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker sprinted past John Isner 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 in 74 minutes for a place in the third round.
American Isner had no chance as he walked onto court less than 24 hours after rewriting records with his win over Nicolas Mahut of France, a three-day match which will live for the ages from its surreal 70-68 scoreline in the fifth set and duration of 11:05 hours.
De Bakker will play Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, a winner over 13th seed Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 2-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Djokovic, Hewitt roll on
Novak Djokovic and Lleyton Hewitt moved through to a fourth round confrontation of former Grand Slam winners.
Third seed Djokovic, a former Australian Open champ devastated over Serbia’s elimination from the World Cup after a defeat against Australia, booked his place over Spain’s Albert Montanes, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
The 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia surprisingly knocked out Gael Monfils 6-3, 7-6 (11-9), 6-4.
“I thought it might be tougher,” said Hewitt. “I’ve lost to him the last few times we’ve played.
“It was huge to get out of the second set tiebreaker and the third set could have gone either way also.”
Keywords: Wimbledon 2010