Wickmayer, Clijsters build 2-0 lead
Australian Open winner Kim Clijsters and Yanina Wickmayer beat their U.S. opponents in straight sets Saturday to give Belgium a 2-0 lead in their first-round Fed Cup matchup.
Wickmayer defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 7-6 (6), and Clijsters followed with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Melanie Oudin.
The United States is playing without the injured Williams sisters. Venus Williams injured her groin at the Australian Open, and Serena Williams has been sidelined with a foot injury since winning Wimbledon.
Belgium is without Justine Henin, who retired last week because of an elbow injury.
Clijsters is a favorite to clinch the event Sunday when she plays Mattek-Sands in reverse singles.
''Everybody always expects a lot but it isn't always that easy,'' the second-ranked Clijsters said.
Clijsters cruised in the first set against the 61st-ranked Oudin. The 19-year-old from Marietta, Ga., put up a better challenge in the second set.
''It kind of got in my head and I was just tight out there in the beginning,'' Oudin said.
Clijsters finished the match with an ace to the cheers of the crowd of 10,000 at the Sports Palace.
Mattek-Sands littered the first set with unforced errors but fought for every point in the second to force a tiebreaker, losing the match when the ball bounced unluckily on the net cord in the tiebreaker.
Mattek-Sands had forced two set points, took a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker, but the Belgian rallied for the win.
''It is good to have the first point under the belt,'' Wickmayer said. ''It certainly wasn't easy.''
Henin's retirement gave the starting spot to Wickmayer, who was still shaking off a bad cold.
Mattek-Sands sprayed balls all over, helping Wickmayer to a 3-0 lead. She never recovered in the first set and seemed finished after Wickmayer immediately broke in the second.
But Mattek-Sands, ranked 48th compared to 26th for Wickmayer, fought back.
''She is a great Fed Cup player,'' Wickmayer said.
Mattek-Sands knows she's facing a player with four Grand Slam singles titles on Sunday.
''There is no use worrying about what's in the past,'' she said. ''Go out there and play my game, that's all I can control.''