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Clijsters, Azarenka Crash Out; Jankovic Battles Through

Indian Wells, U.S.A.

Jankovic© Getty ImagesSerbian Jelena Jankovic rallies for a third-round win on Monday.

Two of the top women’s title hopes crashed out in third-round action Monday at the BNP Paribas Open. Two-time champion and No. 14 seed Kim Clijsters fell to Russian Alisa Kleybanova 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4), while third seed Victoria Azarenka lost to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 7-6(4), 6-2.

Clijsters had won her past 15 matches in Indian Wells and seemed poised to extend the streak as she built a 3-0 lead in the third set. Even after No. 23 seed Kleybanova returned the match to serve, Clijsters looked to be in comfortable position as she broke open a 4-0 advantage in the tie-break.

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But the victory slipped out of her grasp as the former World No. 1 failed to register another point. The 20 year old Kleybanova won the final seven points of the match, completing the upset in two hours and 36 minutes when Clijsters put a return into the net on match point.

“I definitely think I let it get away,” said Clijsters. “Credit to her. She played some really good points to get back into it. I think a lot of times I felt like the better I started moving her around, the more she's really good on the run and she really gets those angles where she kept me under pressure.”

With Clijsters’ loss, five of six women’s champions who began the tournament have bowed out of the 2010 BNP Paribas Open. Defending champion Vera Zvonareva, who defeated Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets earlier Monday, is the last former winner still remaining in the draw.

“I would have, of course, loved to have given myself another shot at trying to get to those quarters, semis, finals,” said Clijsters, who won the Indian Wells title in 2003 and ’05. “I think this is always a tournament that I love to play at.

“A lot of people expect the top players to do well. But you see it more and more that in the early rounds, I think it just becomes a lot tougher… There's a lot of younger girls now who are coming up and make it really tough for us. When you're not playing your absolute best, I think anybody is out there to beat us.”

In Azarenka’s third-round match, the third-seeded Belarusian was edged out in the first set tie-break and then failed to save the three break points she faced on serve in the second. It marked Azarenka’s earliest exit this season, after reaching the final in Dubai, semi-finals in Sydney and quarter-finals at the Australian Open.

Sixth seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia escaped an upset in her third-round match, as she battled past Italian Sara Errani 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 in two hours and 48 minutes.

Errani threatened to close out the victory in straight-sets after coming back from a 1-6 deficit in the second-set tie-break to knot the score at 6-6 before Jankovic succeded in extending the match. Errani then saw a 4-2 lead in the third set evaporate as Jankovic won the final four games.

Jankovic is through to the fourth round at Indian Wells for the third time in four years, and will next face Israeli Shahar Peer for a place in the quarter-finals. Jankovic achieved her best event finish in 2008 when she reached the semi-finals (l. to Ivanovic).

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