31 Jan 2011

RANKING UPDATE

JAN. 31 • Thanks to her Australian triumph, Kim has moved up one place in the new WTA ranking, now 2nd just 140 points behind Caroline Wozniacki. This is yet to be confirmed officially but Kim could even regain the No.1 spot next week in Paris if she reaches the semifinals. We'll keep you posted!

30 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • TROPHY PHOTO SHOOT


Jan. 30 • One day after grabbing her first major trophy outside the US, Kim posed for the usual trophy photo shoot, this time on Melbourne's Brighton beach. Enjoy a 'behind the scenes' video and some of the shots that were taken on this sunny Sunday!





29 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • 1ST MELBOURNE CROWN FOR AUSSIE KIM!


Jan. 29 • She had already established herself as the queen of New York; now Australia can finally call her one of her own. Cementing her status as one of the top players over the past decade, an emotional Kim Clijsters won her fourth Grand Slam title by taking her first Australian Open with a 3-6 6-3 6-3 victory over China's Li Na.


Li, the No.9 seed, was the sharper of the two early, taking the first set on the strength of more aggressive numbers ― 10 winners to just three for Clijsters. After a string of breaks to start the second set, Clijsters was the one who steadied herself, winning six straight games from 6-3 3-2 down to win the second set and build a 2-0 lead in the third set. Li was not to recover from that stretch.

'She did everything better than me in that first set', Clijsters told press. 'Her groundstrokes were heavier, deeper. She served better, she returned better. She was playing really, really well ― probably the best she's ever played against me. I tried mixing it up, putting some slices in, hitting a few higher shots that drew some errors. I saw her get a little bit aggravated and I just tried to hang in there.'


Clijsters praised the crowd in her on-court speech: 'I finally feel like you guys can call me Aussie Kim, because I won the title. I've been coming here for many years and you guys have always been amazing. It helps so much.'

'I take positives. I think I played great tennis. She played better than me', Li said. 'After the match, when I was going back to the locker room, I made a joke that a tennis match should only be one set. I'm still happy what I did today. Right now I'll just take total rest, because Chinese New Year is coming soon. I'll take time with the family and prepare for the next tournament.'

Clijsters's first three majors came at the US Open, in 2005, 2009 and 2010. She is now 4-4 in major finals, losing her first four and winning her last four.


Clijsters had lost to Li in the final of the lead-up event in Sydney, but that could have worked in her favor ― the last player to win a title the week before a major then go on to win that major was all of seven years ago in 2004, when Justine Henin won Sydney and then won the Australian Open two weeks later.

Li was the first Asian ever to reach a Grand Slam final in singles, and will now bounce back into the world's Top 10 and to a new career-high, No.7. She will be Asia's second-highest ranked player ever, after Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan (who went as high as No.4 in the world back in 1995, during her first career).

'It's so exciting I could be the first one', Li said of her breakthrough. 'I want another trophy. I want my name there - just one more step. Maybe next time.'

'I'd like to congratulate Li Na', Kim said. 'She's such a tough competitor and she made such a great effort these last few weeks. I'm sure we'll have some tough battles coming up - a few more Grand Slam finals would be nice!'


Kim will rise from No.3 to No.2 on the new rankings, the highest ranking of her second career, since coming back to the WTA in two summers ago.

There has been talk about how much longer Kim will play, talk that got louder after the retirement of Henin, whose career was somewhat parallel.

'I do think this is probably my last full season'', the 27-year-old Clijsters said. 'When I started again, I had the Olympics in my mind. I wanted to try to keep going until then. I obviously never expected things to go so well so quickly.'

Will she be back to defend Down Under? 'Yeah, I hope so', she said.

28 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • FINAL INFO


Jan. 28  Just a quick update to let you know that the Australian Open women's singles final between Kim and Li Na will be played tomorrow (Saturday 29/01) at 7.30pm, local time on Rod Laver Arena.

27 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • KIM THROUGH TO FINAL!


Jan. 27 • In Melbourne, Kim has wrapped up her spot for the women's singles final on Saturday night with a 6-3 6-3 win over Russia's Vera Zvonareva.


In a repeat of the US Open 2010 final, Kim and Zvonareva again faced off, and again the outcome was the same, which Kim was obviously happy with.


'Today I was able to just stay very aggressive throughout it all and keep my unforced errors down and put a lot of pressure on her. Yeah, so, I mean, it's good. I'm very happy with the way I ended this today', she said after the match.



Also at stake today was the right to be the No.2 player in the world when the rankings are released on Monday ― a secondary prize compared with the opportunity to win a major.

Zvonareva must have liked her chances early when she broke the No.3 seed in the opening game, but any confidence gained from that was quickly quelled minutes later as Kim broke straight back.

A hallmark of Zvonareva's matches this past week and a half has been her shot making. Today though, the No.2 seed was relegated to the passenger seat as Kim took control.

Zvonareva was pushed from her regular spot on the baseline back a couple of feet where she spent most of her time defending while Kim dictated play.

With games still on serve and Kim leading 4-3, a disastrous attempted smash from Zvonareva that caught the frame and flew past the baseline proved to be the catalyst for the Russian's downfall. Had the smash found its target the first set would have been level at 4-4, instead Clijsters grabbed the break to take an imposing 5-3 lead and duly served it out.

There were break points on offer in the opening game of the first set, but this time it was Kim who was in with a shot at an early lead. It wasn't to be, Zvonareva sending a clear message that she wasn't ready to let this match go.

The Belgian took on the role of puppet master in the second set as she ran her opponent from one side of the court to the other before finishing points off either at the net or with a well angled winner from either wing.

Zvonareva wasn't looking like the confident in control world No.2 that she'd been in her previous five matches, today the Russian at times seemed unsure of how to break through the Clijsters defense, which she spoke about after the match.

'I think she played a very good match, very clean match. I tried to hang in there. I knew what I had to do, but I think she was executing her shots really well', said Zvonareva.
'The quality of my shots weren't maybe good enough to hurt her today. She was playing fast, and that maybe affected my game a little bit, and I was playing a little bit too short and passive. I was trying to turn it around but, yeah, she was on top of me today and it was a little bit difficult for me.'

And in the third game, she cracked. Kim breaking the second seed's serve to take a lead that Zvonareva wouldn't be able to chase down.
Not that she didn't have her chances. In the eighth game Zvonareva had two break point opportunities but was unable to capitalise as Kim came over the top of her to hold serve then, adding insult to injury, broke Zvonareva the next game to claim the second set and the match 6-3.

The win gives Kim a shot at her 4th major, having already won three US Open titles. It also gives Kim the opportunity to avenge her final loss here in 2004.

'It's nice to be in another Grand Slam final here. You know, obviously when you're close and having played a few semifinals and one final, I think you kind of just tease with that feeling, you know, of maybe going the whole way.'

Her opponent, Na Li, will be playing for her first major after defeating top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the other semifinal played earlier. It was a win that has great significance for not only herself, but also her country.

Li and Clijsters played in the final of the Medibank International Sydney earlier this month, a match that Li won in straight sets despite Clijsters being the favourite. And Li is looking forward to the return bout.

'She's nice person; good player. Tough player also. Yeah, another challenge. Of course it's tough match. Tennis never have the easy. So I mean, I was in final already, so nothing to lose. Yeah, just like beginning of the year just like before. I don't need think about too much. Yeah, because if we play final, it's Saturday night so I still have two days. I can totally rest right now.'

Clijsters was equally respectful of Li, without giving too much away.
'She's playing with obviously a lot of confidence; so am I. Should be a good one.'

26 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • SEMIFINAL INFO


Jan. 26 • Kim's semifinal match against Vera Zvonareva is scheduled around 3pm, local time on Rod Laver Arena.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • KIM REACHES SEMIFINAL!

Jan. 26 • In Melbourne, Kim has now reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, after defeating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3 7-6(4).


Kim Clijsters is a happy person. A happy bubbly person with blonde curls that seem to spring in time with her smile. Rumour has it, her daughter Jada is just the same. A slightly smaller ray of sunshine. But Kim C does not like to be pushed around. And when she is pushed around, she becomes quite terrifying. If Todd Woodbridge thought she was looking grumpy the other day, he hasn't seen anything.

Things started exactly according to the Clijsters plan in the first set of her quarterfinal clash against steady Pole Agnieszka Radwanska. Kimmy may have come out with her left leg strapped, but then, ' wham bam' broke Radwanska in the opening game. But Radwanska, who has had a miraculous run here at Australian Open 2011 despite undergoing surgery at the end of last year, had other ideas. She broke Kim back, and thence commenced a ding dong of service breaks.

Radwanska, who is best buds with world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, possesses one particular weapon that Kim did not like at all. Her ability to scrabble and scamper after every ball, in a very Andy Murray-esque way. The US Open champ, skipping into her forehand and giving the ball a good old welt, saw the ball come back time and time again when it should have been long gone.Having been 4-1 up in the first set, Kim found her lead reduced to 4-3, later admitting that her legs had felt heavy as the Australia Day planes flew over Rod Laver Arena. But although Radwanska had rallied, it was too late to save the first set, Kim taking it 6-3. You could almost see her let out a sigh of relief.


And so with 12 winners and 13 unforced errors, Kim again tried to put her stamp on the match in the second set. Holding serve to kick it off, she made her move in the sixth game, breaking the Radwanska serve to go 4-2 up. No more being pushed around. But Radwanksa pushed back. Taking advantage of the US Open champion's fourth double fault of the match, the Pole took the break back, and then converted her eighth break point of the match to break again and serve for the set. 

But it was then that Kim clicked into gear. Battering forehand after forehand to take her tally of winners past the 40 mark, she saw three break back points come and go before finally converting the fourth, and spinning the bottle right back to Radwanska. 

Into a second set tiebreak, this time, it worked. Radwanska looked rattled as she survived barrage after barrage, and after just over an hour and a half, Kim converted her first match point to win the tiebreak and the match, 6-3, 7-6(4).

'I fought well and stayed really focused, tried not to lose too much energy on getting frustrated and things like that', said Kim. 'So, yeah. I mean, got close in that second set. I felt that there were a few things I did really well, but there were also a few things that I just, you know, my own feeling, I just didn't feel quite right every time out there. There were rallies where I felt good, I was hitting the ball; there were rallies when I didn't feel right in the position where I should be at.'
Everything has to be better. I mean, serving, returning, the unforced errors. Everything has to be better. But, you know, I'm in the semifinals and you know, I don't feel like I've played my best tennis probably. So it's a good thing. I feel that I'm hanging in there, working hard, you know, to win my points. Sometimes that's probably even more of an achievement than winning your matches very easily.'

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't smiley, but Kim got what she wanted in the end: her first appearance in a Melbourne Park semifinal since 2007, and her sixth in total. She lost to Maria Sharapova that year. Four years later, it will be up to Vera Zvonareva to halt the Mother Superior's march to another Grand Slam final.

'It will be tough. There will be a lot of rallies, long rallies I think. But I've always enjoyed playing my matches against her. They've always been a lot of fun. They've been, like I said, like physical and just kind of what you expect coming up for a semifinal.'

25 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • QUARTERFINAL INFO


Jan. 25 • Kim's quarterfinal match against Agnieszka Radwanska is scheduled at 12.30pm, local time on Rod Laver Arena.

24 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • KIM NOW IN QUARTERS!


Jan. 24 • Kim has reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, after defeating Ekaterina Makarova 7-6(3) 6-2.


She may be many people's favourite to win the title and, in the absence of any Australian players, she may be the darling of the Australian crowd ― everyone loves Aussie Kim ― but as Kim Clijsters was keen to point out after reaching her sixth quarterfinal at the Open, she is not Superwoman.

Then again, Kim does not to dive in a telephone box or twirl on the spot in order to reveal her super powers; she merely needs to pick up a racquet and set her sights on a major trophy. Armed with that racquet, she squashed the spirited challenge of Ekaterina Makarova 7-6, 6-2 as the clock ticked past midnight and looked mightily relieved when she had finished.

'I think she's a tricky player', Kim said. 'She's played very well this week. We don't play too many lefthanders and you really have to have a different mind-set when you play her, especially on the returns. But I played well. It was a fun match. She gives you a lot of rhythm ― she's a good player.'

It all began so easily for Kim. In the twinkling of an eye, she was two games to the good allowing her Russian rival just one point along the way. But then Makarova shook off her nerves and got to work. She matched Kim from the baseline and then started bossing her about. This was not the way a world No.3 ought to be treated, but Makarova did not care.

Only in the tiebreak did Kim finally manage to pull rank. She allowed the Russian just three points as she secured the first set and from there on, Aussie Kim was in charge. Cutting down on the unforced error count - only nine of her 24 mistakes were committed in the second set - she made sure that Makarova could find no way back. All in all, it was a good night's work for Kim.


Given that it took her seven years to win her first major title (the US Open in 2005 ) she has been winning them to a band playing since she came out of retirement in 2009. Two more US Open titles have been added to the collection and since she walloped Dinara Safina in the opening round here, she has been leading the charge for the title in Melbourne Park. All this and she is a working mum, taking two-year-old Jada with her wherever she travels.

'I'm not Superwoman', she said, smiling from ear to ear. 'Look, I probably have the fullest box of anyone. I have a nanny, a great team around me. We are all a great bunch of friends and we take it as a great adventure, ever since I came back. I hope I can make it continue for a while longer.'

The adventure will resume on Wednesday when Clijsters takes on Agnieszka Radwanska for a place in the semifinals.

23 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • 4TH ROUND INFO


Jan. 23 • Kim's 4th round match against Ekaterina Makarova will be the second night match on Rod Laver Arena and should start around 9.30pm, local time.

22 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • KIM REACHES 4TH ROUND


Jan. 20 • It's under the Australian sun that Kim has qualified for the 4th round of the Australian Open, after defeating Alizé Cornet 7-6(3) 6-3.

Great players find a way to win, even when they're not having their best day on the court. And that's just what third seed Kim did today.

'You never play a whole tournament playing your best tennis. And you have to also, you know, work for it. I think that's what I had to do today', said Kim after the match.


Birthday girl Cornet would have been hoping for a gift from the likeable Kim, but it was the Frenchwoman who dropped serve, gifting the Belgian the opening game of the match.

Early on, Kim looked as if she was going to sweep Cornet aside and race into the fourth round in double time. But after opening up a 3-1 lead, Kim's crown slipped a little as she started to miss, regularly.

The break back came in the sixth game as a pumped up Cornet levelled the set. Not to be outdone, the World No.3 broke straight back to reclaim her advantage.

Serving for the set at 5-4, some loose play from the Belgian kept Cornet's hopes of an upset alive. A forehand volley into the net from Kim giving Cornet a sniff, and not long after the Frenchwoman had the break back.

Inevitably the set ended in a tiebreak, with Kim coming out on top - too many errors from Cornet's racquet as the more experienced Kim kept her cool under pressure.

Clijsters had to wait for the fourth game to get the break after Cornet hit a forehand long.

From there it was too hard for Cornet to come back, the 21-year-old tired as Kim did enough to chalk up the win. The Frenchwoman also spent a surprising amount of time on the ground; anyone wondering what to buy the Frenchwoman for her birthday would be well advised to get her some new shoes.

Clijsters will only take a few positives from this match ― the main one being she found a way to win despite not being at the top of her game. 41 unforced errors from Clijsters, compared with 25 from Cornet, was too many.

'I felt that I was building my points pretty well when I was in charge, but a couple times missed easier volleys, [I] felt that I could have maybe hit a drive volley and finished off the points a little bit sooner', said Kim.


The Belgian breathed a sigh of relief after the win but said she'll be having a serious practice session on Sunday morning to iron out the wrinkles that were evident in her game today in preparation for her 4th-round date with unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who upset 13th-seeded countrywoman Nadia Petrova.

'Tomorrow out on the practice court I'm going to try to hit a lot of balls, try to get that feel for it again, move better. Just little things that keep that rhythm or get the rhythm to where I want it to be.'

21 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • 3RD ROUND INFO


Jan. 21 • Kim's 3rd round match at the Australian Open is scheduled on Rod Laver Arena today, it will be the last day match, around 2pm, local time. Kim will face Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet for the first time.

20 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • KIM EASILY ADVANCES TO 3RD ROUND


Jan. 20 • In Melbourne Kim has qualified for the 3rd round, after a convincing win over Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-1, 6-3.

Kim easily dismissed her opponent in just one hour and two minutes, overpowering the same young Spaniard who had shocked Venus Williams in Melbourne two years ago.


The 27-year-old mother ripped 21 winners in the match to only six from Suarez, tore apart her second serve by winning 13 of 19 of Suarez's second serve points and breaking the Spaniard five times in the match. Kim thundered about the court, ripping winners off the ground, countering anything Suarez threw at her and consistently moving forward.

'I went out there with the intention to stay very aggressive and to not let my opponent play her game, and that is try to really mix it up, play with a lot of spin. She can only do that when she has a lot of time. I think it was really up to me to try to limit that from her, really be aggressive when I was out there, and I did.'


Since winning her third US Open title in September, Kim has won 18 of her last 20 matches, beating six top 10 players along the way. While her serve can be sporadic, it's a bigger weapon than it was before she briefly retired in 2006. The same can be said of her forehand, which is more lethal as well as more consistent. Plus, she's no longer a pure counter puncher and physically is one of the strongest women out there along with Serena Williams.

'I think I've been playing inside of the court really well', she said. 'A lot of girls, or like even the guys, they like to just get into the rally and kind of just wait until they really are certain. But I think there are a lot of opportunities in the beginning of the rallies already where you can really step forward and dictate and put your opponent under pressure. [Before I retired] I'm not as fit as I am now, I felt I needed to retrieve a little bit on the court. I'm strong enough to still be aggressive from even a little bit further behind. But now I think if I can use that power, being a meter closer to the baseline, it has a bigger impact on the way my shots go to my opponents.' 

Kim, who was once nicknamed 'Aussie Kim' while she was engaged to men's player Lleyton Hewitt, has a number of close Australian friends including doubles standout Rennae Stubbs. During practice yesterday, Stubbs showed her a text she got from Tennis Australia's and Channel 7 commentator Todd Woodbridge and when Woodbridge went on court to interview Clijsters after her victory, the Belgian good-naturedly got her revenge.

'Yesterday after one of my practices, Rennae and I were sitting around, talking, laughing away', she recalled. 'We were talking about like babies, having a second one. All of a sudden she goes, "Yeah, Todd last week in Sydney wrote me a message during your match saying that he already thought you were pregnant." I was like, 'Oh, really?' And then she showed me. So I walk out there, it's like, "Okay, I'm going to get him back now." I saw Rennae in the locker room. She said "I can't believe you told them on centre court."'

In the 3rd round, Kim will face Alizé Cornet, who has rather surprisingly defeated Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez in straight sets.

19 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • 2ND ROUND INFO


Jan. 19 Just a quick update to let you know that Kim's second round match against the Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro will be the first one on Rod Laver Arena, at 11am, local time.

18 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • KIM RACES PAST SAFINA TO REACH 2ND ROUND!


Jan. 18 • In Melbourne, Kim has come out firing, winning her first round match against Dinara Safina 6-0 6-0 in just 44 minutes!


With Kim clicking on all cylinders, Australian Open 2009 finalist Safina became the first former No.1 in Open era history to suffer a double bagel defeat at a Grand Slam. While Safina has struggled since returning from back injury last summer, she by no means anticipated being hammered in such fashion.

Kim had come into the match with a 7-2 record against Safina, but had dropped two out of her last three matches against her. But the Russian isn't even close to the same level player who took out Clijsters on a hard court at 2009 Cincinnati, and the Belgian was never truly threatened. Kim played an incredibly clean match, nailing 17 winners and a mere 4 unforced errors, while the stunned Safina only managed 8 winners and committed 14 unforced errors. The three-time US Open champion was faster, more powerful, more accurate with her serve and her return.

'My mind has been on this match for a while already, ever since I found out my draw last week', Kim said. 'I knew if she played her best, I had to play my best to beat her. That's what I came here to do. When you see your opponent isn't at their best, you still have to keep the same mentality and focus.'

'I didn't know how to win a point', Safina said. 'I was looking forward to this match. We've played many times. I wanted to go out there and play my game and see what happened. But today she was just cruising and cruising.'

'She was the person who made the biggest impression on me when I started again, not just because of her fitness, but because of her power', Kim added. 'She just doesn't have the power she used to have. She used to have one of the best backhands down the line in the game, now she doesn't use it. She didn't get to No.1 just by luck, though. The game is still there. She just has to win a few matches, a few tough matches, then build some more confidence.'

'I guess I had the same feeling as last week when I won one game, except this week I didn't even win one game', Safina said. 'I've been doing two months of pre-season. I'm fully motivated. I cannot say I didn't practice hard. But I guess something was not right. I have to figure out the answers. There are no secrets. I've always believed in hard work. But it's not about the hours. I need to find the right way to work. I will give my hundred percent to get back.'

A year ago in Melbourne, Clijsters suffered the worst loss of her professional career, a 6-0 6-1 third round loss to another Russian, Nadia Petrova. She was asked in her post-match press to compare that to what Safina might be feeling.

'There's not much you can say to make her feel better, but I know her well. We were talking in the locker room. She's a good girl like that. It's not like she's not going to talk to me for the next two months when I see her on the road. But that's the sport we play - we step out there, two players, and things like that happen. But let's hope it's not going to make her confidence go even lower.'

Clijsters has now won 27 straight Grand Slam first round matches and the last 19 of those victories have come in straight sets.

In the 2nd round, Kim will face Carla Suarez Navarro ― the Spaniard has defeated the American McHale in 3 sets. It will be their first meeting.

17 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • 1ST ROUND INFO


Jan. 17 • As expected, Kim will play her first round match against Dinara Safina in the evening session. It will be the first night match on Rod Laver Arena and will start at 7pm, local time.


AUSTRALIAN OPEN • RALLY FOR RELIEF



Jan. 16 • Just a quick update to let you know that Kim has taken part in the Rally For Relief on Rod Laver Arena, together with lots of other top players, in order to raise funds for flood relief. Kim teamed up with Rafael Nadal and then Samantha Stosur to offer the Australian crowd some nice rallies.


Kim will probably be back on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday night, playing her first round match against Dinara Safina. We'll keep you posted!

14 Jan 2011

AUSTRALIAN OPEN • KIM'S DRAW


Jan. 14 • The first Grand Slam of the year is just around the corner! The Australian Open will indeed go on start on Monday and the draw was revealed yesterday. The least one can say is that Kim's draw is not exactly what you can call easy...

She will face Dinara Safina in the first round

And here are some opponents she might face later in the tournament: 

   2nd • Suarez Navarro 
   3rd • Martinez Sanchez
   4th • Petrova/Ivanovic
   1/4 • Jankovic/Kleybanova
   1/2 • Stosur/Zvonareva
   F • Wozniacki/Henin/Sharapova/V.Williams/Li/Azarenka

You can check the whole draw here.