Clijsters says sorry for Safina "double bagel"

By Alastair Himmer

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Belgium's Kim Clijsters said she felt sorry for Dinara Safina after inflicting the dreaded 'double bagel' on the Russian with a 6-0 first round blowout at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

It was an embarrassingly lopsided match between two former world number ones, Safina fighting back the tears as she trudged to the net after a 44-minute humiliation.

"I do feel bad," Clijsters told reporters after whitewashing the Russian.

"I even caught myself at 5-0 in the second set, she hit a couple of backhands down the line, I was like 'Yeah, that's it!'

"When she doesn't play against me, I'm rooting for her because I want her to get back into it and build confidence."

Clijsters added with a smile: "But I wouldn't give her a (sympathy) game."

When Venus Williams walloped Safina 6-1 6-0 in the Wimbledon semi-finals two years ago, the result was the most lopsided win over a current world number one at a grand slam event.

On Tuesday, the Russian suffered a new low when the WTA said she became the first woman to have been ranked number one to lose 6-0 since the standings system began in 1975.

Belgian Clijsters, a three-times grand slam champion and Melbourne finalist in 2004, insisted Safina could still find a way out of her slump in form.

"That game is still in her. She didn't get to number one just by luck."

Clijsters, who could return to the number one spot if results go her way at the year's first slam, took the first set with a ferocious backhand down the line after just 20 minutes.

NO ANSWERS

The Australian crowd tried to get behind Safina but when the Russian dumped an easy forehand into the net to go 0-2 down in the second set it was effectively all over.

Clijsters put Safina out of her misery on her fourth match point with another vicious backhand which was too hot for her tortured opponent to handle.

"I couldn't find the answer. Nothing was hurting her," added the Russian, who suffered a 6-0 6-1 drubbing by Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in Hobart last week.

On top of the world less than two years ago, Safina's loss could send her tumbling out of the top 100.

"Definitely it hurts but what I can do? First I need to find the reason what's going on, what are the mistakes, and then to work on them.

"Not to go blindly on the court and kill your ass for like five hours. Sometimes it makes no sense."

Safina was not the only former world number one bundled out of the Australian Open on Tuesday, Serbia's Ana Ivanovic beaten 3-6 6-4 10-8 by Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

Ivanovic blamed the effects of an abdominal strain, however, promising to break back into the top 10 soon from her current position of 20.

"Lots of positives came out of this match," she said. "I certainly still believe I can get back to top 10 and I believe I can do it in this year."

(Editing by John O'Brien and Pritha Sarkar)