Williams and Clijsters safely clear first big hurdles

Sun Sep 5, 2010 4:52pm EDT
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By Julian Linden

NEW YORK, Sept 5 - (Reuters) - Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters passed their first real tests at the U.S. Open with flying colors on Sunday to safely book their places in the quarter-finals.

The pair could hardly have been more impressive as they swept past tricky fourth-round opponents to remain on course for a blockbuster semi-final showdown when the last the last grand slam of the season enters the second week.

Williams, the champion at Flushing Meadows in 2000 and 2001, defeated Israeli 16th seed Shahar Peer 7-6 6-3 and the American said the match was the perfect test for what was ahead of her.

"It's always good to have a tougher match, a kind of a match where you have to challenge yourself against your opponent and the conditions," Williams said.

"We always have had very competitive matches, so I know it's not going to be something I just walk through when I play against her.

"I have to stay focused and ready to take every point or else she will. It was a good challenge."

Clijsters, who won the title in 2005 and again last year, thrashed Serbia's former world number one Ana Ivanovic 6-2 6-1 in just under an hour. Like Williams, she is yet to drop a set in the championship.

"You always want to do well at tournaments where you've done well, and obviously, the U.S. Open is a special tournament for me," Clijsters said.   Continued...

<p>Venus Williams of the U.S. hits a return to Shahar Peer of Israel during the US Open tennis tournament in New York, September 5, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi</p>