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Clijsters, Capriati charge ahead

Los Angeles: Defending champion Kim Clijsters and America’s Jennifer Capriati posted impressive victories at the $3 million WTA Championships on Wednesday.

Capriati overcame a strained right hip and fought off four set points in the second set to take out Japan’s Ai Sugiyama 7-5, 7-6 in Black Group round-robin play.

For her part, Belgian world No. one Clijsters whipped Russian Elena Dementieva 6-2, 6-2 on the opening night in Red Group play.

But fourth seed Amelie Mauresmo was upended 6-4, 4-6, 2-6 by eighth seed Chanda Rubin.

In winning her first match since falling in a titanic US Open semi-final to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, Capriati played a highly aggressive contest, taking huge cuts from the baseline and powering in big serves when she needed to.

The American had suffered a strained right hip flexor in practice early in the day, but managed to fight off four set points and played a superb tiebreak.

After she shook off an off-the-court backhand pass down the line by Sugiyama at 6-2, she won the contest with a huge inside out forehand. “I’m pretty happy,” said Capriati, who notched her 400th career victory.

The top-ranked Belgian was a backboard from the ground and completely suffocated the Russian, committing only nine unforced errors.

“I felt really good,” said Clijsters, who will play Rubin next. “I was very consistent and it’s a good feeling to have. There wasn’t a moment I was down and I didn’t make any easy mistakes.”

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