| Sixth seeded Monica Seles of the US reacts after a missed point against Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic in Melbourne Thursday. Seles lost 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 3-6. (Reuters)
Melbourne: Kim Clijsters dropped the smiles and the giggles for just 33 devastating minutes on Thursday but it was long enough to thrash Petra Mandula 6-0, 6-0 and reach the third round of the Australian Open.
Her boyfriend Lleyton Hewitt, in turn, left his fist-pumping in the locker room to thunder past qualifier Todd Larkham, a qualifier ranked 234 places below the world No. 1.
The Australian top seed’s 74-minute 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 victory was revenge for the last time the pair met.
In 1996, Larkham soundly beat a 15-year-old Hewitt at a small event in a Melbourne suburb. Seven years on Hewitt showed the qualifier no mercy at all, allowing 28-year-old just 30 points in the entire match.
“I was not looking to rub it in exactly... but I think back then I only got a few games,” Hewitt smiled, recalling the 0-6, 4-6 loss.
The ruthless manner of his victory was matched only by that of Clijsters’ whitewashing of Hungary’s Mandula in the quickest contest of the week by far.
It was a performance of grit and concentration that underlined the Belgian’s intent to make her Grand Slam breakthrough here.
Mandula, a solid player who last year counted world No. 9 Jelena Dokic among her scalps, was simply overwhelmed by the intensity of the Belgian’s baseline aggression.
The one-sided thrashing also sent a clear message to world No. Serena Williams, still a little off her best, as she looks to bag the only Grand Slam not in her possession.
On Thursday, Serena put her nervy first-round, three-set victory behind her to crush Els Callens of Belgium 6-4, 6-0.
But while Clijsters, one of the friendliest and most laid back players on the tour, was a picture of breezy confidence following her brief run-out, the American admitted to feeling the strain.
“I think I’m a little tense, maybe I’m putting a little too much pressure on myself,” Serena told reporters.
The world No. 1 is bidding to become only the fifth woman in history to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time after winning last year’s French Open, Wimbledon and US Open championships.
Fourth seed Clijsters, though, beat her in the final of the WTA Championships last year and looms as a major hurdle in the semi-finals providing neither slip up before then.
A hobbling Monica Seles joined Gustavo Kuerten and Mary Pierce on the sidelines.
Czech qualifier Klara Koukalova knocked out Seles, who twisted her ankle at the start of their second-round match. The former world No. 1 crashed to a 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 3-6 defeat despite bravely playing on with a heavily strapped left ankle.
It was just the second time since Seles made her Grand Slam debut in 1989 that she failed to make it past the second round of one of the four majors.
Perennial Open under-performer Kuerten, seeded 30, went down 7-5, 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 3-6 to Czech Radek Stepanek and has now failed to progress beyond the second round at Melbourne Park in seven visits.
Mary Pierce slipped up after winning the first set of her match against Chanda Rubin to love. She eventually lost to the tenth-seeded American 6-0, 4-6, 2-6.
Marat Safin, last week’s shoulder injury a faint memory, bulldozed his way into the third round seeing off Spain’s Albert Montanes 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
His third-round opponent Rainer Schuettler, the number 31 seed, defeated Dutch former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek 6-3 7-5 6-4.
In other matches, seventh seed Jiri Novak outlasted Belgian Olivier Rochus 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, while No. 9 Andy Roddick of the US defeated Romania’s Andre Voinea 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. Compatriot James Blake, the 23rd seed, swept past Argentine Jose Acasuso 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
Swiss No. 6 Roger Federer had it easy against German Lars Burgsmuller, winning 6-3, 6-0, 6-3, while Argentine David Nalbandian, seeded No. 10, beat Jaymon Crabb of Australia 6-1, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
In more women’s action, No. 26 Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand beat Russia’s Alina Jidkova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3; while No. 11 Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria saw off South Korea’s Cho Yoon-jeong 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. (Reuters)