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Hewitt, Clijsters, Sharapova advance at US Open
Updated: 2005-09-01 09:04

NEW YORK (AP) - Gusting winds picked up anything that wasn't nailed down at the U.S. Open on Wednesday, and the only thing that held steady was the draw.

Top-seeded Maria Sharapova needed only 49 minutes for her victory, while fourth-seeded Kim Clijsters notched another straight-sets win - 7-5, 6-0 - over Colombia's Fabiola Zuluaga. Wimbledon winner Venus Williams beat Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-3.

"I don't think I've even practiced in these conditions," Clijsters said. "It was so tough out there today."

Lleyton Hewitt broke Albert Costa three times in the final set to close out a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 first-round victory. Gilles Muller couldn't follow up on his stunning upset of Andy Roddick on Tuesday, losing in doubles with American partner Robby Ginepri.

"It was so windy," Sharapova said after her 6-1, 6-0 second-round win over Dally Randriantefy. "I'm really glad I had a piece of chocolate cake last night, otherwise I would have been blown away. It made me heavier."

Two-time champ Serena Williams and French Open winner Rafael Nadal took the court for the evening matches.

The first two days of the Open were hot and humid, with several players struggling. The swirling wind up to 36 mph (57 kph) made temperatures more pleasant on Wednesday, but brought a new challenge.

"The wind was definitely a test today," Venus Williams said. "It's easy to fumble and easy to self-destruct in those kinds of conditions."

Added Hewitt, "It was one match you just wanted to get under your belt, get into the tournament and get back into the locker room as quickly as possible."

Hewitt had won five of his previous six meetings with Costa, but the two haven't played each other since 2002. No matter. Hewitt raced out to an early lead, dropping only two points as he took the first three games of the first set, and Costa never recovered.

The 2002 French Open winner had only two break points the entire match, and couldn't convert either. Hewitt, on the other hand, converted seven of 11 breaks, including three in the last set. He had 23 winners to Costa's nine, and only 17 unforced errors. Costa made 35 errors, double-faulted five times and had no aces.

"Today was really, really difficult," Costa said. "I just confined my rhythm and he was much more confident with the wind, for sure."

Costa has now lost in the first round at his last five Grand Slam events. He missed Wimbledon with a knee injury that required surgery, and the 30-year-old said after the match that retirement is an option.

"I want to finish this season and then decide," he said. "If I finish, I finish altogether. I can't play only on clay."

It doesn't seem to matter where Clijsters plays these days. Victories in her last two tournaments gave her six titles already this year, best on the WTA Tour. She improved to 51-6 with her win over Zuluaga.

If she keeps playing this way, Clijsters might finally break through for her first Grand Slam title.

"Even when I was injured last year, when I started playing again, you get motivated," said the Belgian, who missed the Open last year after wrist surgery. "It motivates you to work hard because you know that those girls, they're working every day hard to get back, to be strong.

"I knew I had to put in twice the effort if I wanted to come back. It's not just one player. It's the whole group that keeps you motivated and hungry to play tennis."

Also advancing were seeds Nicole Vaidisova (26) of the Czech Republic, and No. 30 Ai Sugiyama of Japan.

On the men's side, winners included No. 15-seeded Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia, No. 17 David Ferrer of Spain in a five-setter over Agustin Calleri of Argentina for his first win at the U.S. Open, and No. 25 Taylor Dent of the United States. However, No. 23 Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic withdrew with an ankle injury, allowing Olympic champion Nicolas Massu of Chile to reach the third round.

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