Kim Clijsters Takes On New York

On the Baseline Tennis News

September 4, 2009

Kim ClijstersFLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—Start spreading the news. Kim Clijsters isn’t leaving today…or tomorrow, for that matter. In fact, it is safe to say that the 2005 US Open champion might be staying here in New York for a while.
Kim Clijsters returned to the WTA Tour just a few weeks ago, after retiring in May, 2007 to start a family.

Even though Kim Clijsters hasn’t played in the US Open since 2006, it seems as though she hasn’t missed a step. The 26-year-old received a wildcard into this year’s US Open, and breezed through her first round match on Monday, beating world No. 79 Viktoriya Kutuzova, 6-1, 6-1.

But her first true test came in Wednesday’s second round, when she faced a three-set battle with 14th seed Marion Bartoli on Louis Armstrong Stadium. Clijsters dropped the first set, 5-7. “She [Bartoli] was really dominating all the points,” said Clijsters. “She was stepping in and taking the risks early on. “It was working. She was serving well.”

Clijsters changed her strategy in the second and third sets by mixing up her game, and hitting some high balls. She managed to throw off Bartoli’s rhythm, making 39 winners, compared to Bartoli’s 13. Clijsters went on to win the match 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. “ I stayed focused, I stayed aggressive, and really worked out a game plan that beat her today,” said Clijsters.

This evening, Clijsters played her third round match against fellow Belgian, Kirsten Flipkens. The first set was all Clijsters, who served up a bagel to Flipkens, 6-0. The second set proved to be more challenging. Clijsters had two double faults at the beginning of the set, giving Flipkens an early lead. Clijsters then came back at 2-1. She broke Flipkens’ serve 3 times, and went on to win the match in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2.

Clijsters is only one of five WTA players to have been ranked World No. 1 in both singles and doubles simultaneously. In 2003, she not only became the first Belgian—male or female—to be ranked world No. 1, but like Dinara Safina, she did so without winning a Grand Slam tournament. In her second round post match press conference, Clijsters weighed in on some of the pressures that Dinara Safina is now facing as the No. 1 player.

“The wind blows harder when you’re at the top,” Clijsters said. “I really hope she doesn’t let it influence her and just keeps working the way she has been for the last year or so. It’s obviously working. She’s No. 1. She’s won some big tournaments.”

The years have turned Clijsters into a wiser tennis player, who feels more in tune with match focus. “Because I’m older now, I can read that better. I can really pick up when I feel that my concentration is lacking a little bit. I can really adjust, and kind of get back into that groove. That’s a good feeling to have.”

Clijsters has noticed one major change since she’s been back on the WTA Tour. “A lot of Russian is being spoken in the locker room,” she said with a laugh. She credits her contemporaries, like Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova for helping to pave the way for the up-and-coming Russian players on the Tour.

Some other major changes for Clijsters include carrying around 18-month-old daughter, Jada, although she draws the line at carrying diapers in her tennis bag.
Clijsters will play her fourth round match against Venus Williams.

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