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March 21, 2003

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. So how did you feel out there today?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Oh, it was hot, very hot. Yeah, especially coming from Indian Wells where it's hot as well but it's completely different, I had to -- like, it was good that I got to play on Friday because I needed a few days to get used to it a little bit, to the weather. I'm still not used to it, so it's good that it wasn't a very long match. That's always good to have the short matches in the beginning. I'm playing doubles, too, so, you know, I hope to play some doubles and have some practice there to get used to the weather and the heat and everything.

Q. You must have been quite pleased. It took less than an hour.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Definitely, yeah. I felt in the beginning of the second set I was not playing as aggressive and I was making a little bit more mistakes than I was in the beginning of the match. I didn't want, you know, her to come into the match, didn't want her to have a lead in the second set, because then it can get tough and she can get on a roll and play even better. So I really wanted to finish it off and stay focused. Especially when the weather is very hot, it's hard to stay focused for a long time as well. Lucky we have those change of ends, the breaks, so we can have a little bit of shade and some ice bags and stuff.

Q. You've had amazing highs and lows in the last couple years. You came so close last year at the French, two years ago, sorry. Then at the Aussie again with Serena. What have you learned from those experiences? Do you ever ask Lleyton for advice on how to close out something big?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Lleyton and I, we don't talk about tennis, just maybe a little bit here and there. But it's never really about really specifics. But like I don't, you know, I don't regret anything I did in both of those matches, losing to Jennifer and losing to Serena. I mean, I think against Jennifer, I think it was experience that just made the difference at the end. Against Serena, she just raised her level a bit higher. She didn't make any unforced errors I think in that whole third set. It went from 5-1, she didn't make any unforced errors anymore. There wasn't a lot I could do. I don't think I was doing anything different than when I was, like, to get to 5-1 up. I just think she made, you know, she just raised her level a little bit. That's what those top players do, you know. They can raise the bar when they feel it's necessary, and that's why she's won so many Grand Slams already.

Q. You've shown you could beat her last year at the World Championship at the end of the year. You know in the back of your mind you can beat her. Yet, they do seem unbeatable at times. Do you feel that you are like "The No. 1 Challenger" to them?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Every press conference I get asked about it. I think there's a lot of girls who can challenge them, of course. I think, you know -- but I think it's a challenge every time I get up, you know, and have to play against them. I look forward to that. And because I enjoy playing them, you know, even if I lose, I still -- I know for every match that I play, I give myself 100 percent. I think there's a lot of girls like Jennifer, like Monica, Lindsay, you know, there's a lot of girls who can do well, I think. But it's just a matter of I think -- a lot of girls -- once you get that first win against them, I think you get better, I think. In the beginning, if you lose a few matches, I think a lot of girls it's just a mental thing as well I think, when they play against them.

Q. Aside from beating them, going into a match against them, how do you think people can overcome that intimidation factor, that mental barrier, because they've been so dominant?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. It's different for each person. I can only speak about myself. Like I said, I see it as a challenge. Yeah, I mean, you know, I try to make them play every ball, make them hit every winner that they have to hit and try to get every ball back. And if they, you know, make some easy mistakes on those shots, because they probably don't expect them to come back all the time. I think that's how I won LA as well, that's why I beat Serena. I was just bringing every ball back. A few times she missed some easy volleys because she was surprised I got it back. Those are times where you just have to fight for every chance you get. And if they play their best tennis throughout the whole match, then they're too strong, there's nothing you can do about it. In tennis, I think, you know, tennis is a great sport just because you get a chance every week. I lost in Antwerp -- in Australia, but then, you know, I played Antwerp and I played them in the final and I lost to Venus there. But you always get another chance. So you don't really have a lot of time, I think, to reflect and to think about all those matches, because you have to refocus and regroup for every other tournament again. And I think that's what makes it so interesting as well, just to see who -- you know, because I think tennis is a very mental, very mental sport. I think throughout the whole year, you just have to stay mentally very focused and very fresh.

Q. So mentally, after you lost from 1-5 down in the last set, you were okay with it the next day? You were fine with it?


Q. It didn't bother you at all?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think I've grown up. My parents, they've always -- it's a sport, and, you know, it's my hobby. Like I said, we get other chances. I know for myself that I, you know, whenever I go out to practice or to matches or if I go to the gym or whatever, I, you know, give myself 100 percent for what I do. You know, doesn't matter if I lose. I mean, I'm not going to lose on purpose, I'm not going to hit those balls in the net on purpose. I know for myself I do whatever I can to play my best tennis. Sometimes if you're not playing your best tennis, you still have to fight and you still have to try as hard as you can. Those are the type of matches where you get a lot out of.

Q. You probably weren't alive when Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors were winning their tournaments together. Was it poignant for you last weekend when you and Lleyton won?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, it was nice. It was the first time at the same tournament. Of course he won Shanghai, the championships there, the Masters for them. But, yeah, it was very special, it was nice, yeah.

Q. Do you have those dreams of being No. 1 at the same time, dancing at the Wimbledon Ball?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. We dance anyway (laughing). Doesn't matter.

Q. Really, about being No. 1 at the same time at the end of the year?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, he's No. 1 and I don't really -- like a lot of people ask me, "What are your goals, ranking-wise?" I don't have goals ranking-wise. I think rankings are for the public. Like I said, I know for myself that I do everything I can, and then we'll see how I end on the rankings. That's just something that comes with it and that reflects on how you did the whole year. The rankings for me, they don't really matter to me.

Q. You had difficulty last year with your shoulder. You've come back so well and rehabbed it so well. You're playing so well. Can you talk about your performance progress in tennis, the way your game has changed?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I think, you know, a lot of things, like at the end of -- after the Australian Open last year, I got the stress reaction in my arm. It's a struggle. I mean, every injury for a sports person is a struggle. Of course, you know, I'd much rather be on the tennis court than being in a gym for two hours each day doing the same stuff for my shoulder. You get very professional. I got a lot of discipline out of it. I knew for myself I had to do if I wanted to keep my career going. Otherwise, if I didn't do it, I'd have to have surgery and I would have been out for a year or maybe longer. So that was definitely not, you know, that's not the way I wanted it to go. So, yeah, I just, you know, I took some rest and I think I just, yeah, got more mature since then. I think I feel a lot fitter than what I was a year ago, two years ago. I think that's definitely something to do with all the stuff I did when I had my time off. And I think that's the case, I think, with a lot of tennis players. Because the year's so long, we don't get enough of, like, I think -- it's up to ourselves, you know, if you want to plan your practice periods in between your tournaments. Like, you know, after Miami, I have five weeks off. I'm going to go home and train and play on the clay. I'm not going to do anything for five weeks. I think for tennis players, if you can do it, I think that's the most important thing, is to have those type of weeks in your schedule where you can just, you know, stay home and just do all this stuff but still work on your fitness abilities and everything. But I feel like since that shoulder injury, I've become a lot more consistent and I'm playing, yeah -- maybe when I was younger - younger, I mean one or two years ago - I was always hitting the ball really hard. I was just trying to hit winners off every shot. Now I know you don't have to. Like, I move well on the court and I think, you know, just I have to be consistent throughout the whole match.

Q. Did you change your strokes at all to compensate for your shoulder?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. In the beginning, when I started serving again, sort of that was probably about two months after the Australian Open, I started to have the -- like the short movement of the shoulder, of the serve. But it was sort of like the Patrick Rafter look of serve, but it didn't really work, so, no, I didn't change anything.

Q. I've been told that you're one of the most superstitious people on the women's tour. Can you tell me about some of your superstitions?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, they change every week, sort of. Like, for instance, if I -- last week or let's say at the French Open when I played Jennifer, that whole week, the day that I played we went to an Italian restaurant. The night before we played we went to an Italian restaurant. The day we played we had an Indian restaurant. The only thing we had was pasta and Indian the whole two weeks we were there. Just little things like that. They change every week. It's not that I focus on one, it's just a matter of how I feel that tournament or whatever. If what I eat in the morning, I feel well, then I just keep eating it. I think every person has some of those things, no? I don't know.

Q. How about the court? Do you not touch crossing the line?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Sometimes. I don't really -- yeah, I do it sometimes, but I just -- it's like automatically. It's not a -- I do it automatically now. It's not like if I step on one, I mean, I'm not going to lose the game or anything, I hope. No, I'm not like that.

Q. Why do you think that's important to players, to have those kinds of routines?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think it makes you feel better, makes you feel more comfortable. Makes you feel like you have done, I think, everything right, I think. Yeah, I feel very secure about what I do and if I do well, you know, I just keep doing it. It's with everything, with clothing, you know. I like to have -- even if I win a match, you know, I make sure it's washed for my next match. If you feel good in it, then you just wear it. So, yeah...

Q. You would do that until you lost in that outfit, right?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. But I would wash it again and, you know, I wouldn't wear... It's not that I throw it away or anything.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what it was growing up in your household with your dad as a soccer player, your mom was a gymnast. Did you try out either one of those sports?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I never -- my mom was a gymnast until she was 18, my mom was really young when she had me. She was 19. She stopped gymnastics when she was 19 because she had back problems. I never saw her play, I never saw her do gymnastics. But she still does it sometimes, at home. She's doing it for my cousins and doing some gymnastics. But I remember, you know, very well going to my dad's soccer matches in Belgium on Saturdays. Yeah, no, I loved it. It's been great.

Q. Did you think about either one of those sports, or were you always tennis?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Soccer in Belgium, I think in Europe, it's not even a sport. I mean, they don't even have any, you know -- I think they have like 50 people going to watch it or 40. That's probably the parents of all the girls who go and watch. It's not a very famous sport. Gymnastics either. I think there's so much, like, tough -- I mean, you know, I don't think I have the build to be in gymnastics either. So, but, even when I was little, I think my dad didn't want me -- because my mom had the back problems and everything. So I don't think he'd let me , but I did a lot of other sports. I did basketball, I did swimming. Tennis, I mean. But still my parents, now, they say, "Whenever you're not happy traveling or being on the tour or playing tennis, just stop and do something else," and I think that's what, you know, I'm very lucky with that I think compared to some other parents on the tour. They really let me do what I like and they tell me, you know, "If you're not happy, you can always do something else."

Q. I know you say you don't talk tennis with Lleyton. Do you hit the ball around?

KIM CLIJSTERS: We do, yeah.

Q. Does he let you win?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I can only win at cards, I think. Tennis, not as much during the tournaments but mostly at the end of the year when we're in Adelaide or something and the coach is not around. But we don't really -- it's not like really we play some games, it's just a little touch or whatever, some doubles with his parents or his sister, but that's it really.

Q. Tough to get past him?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Everything - I lose at squash, table tennis, badminton. I'm telling you - cards. That's the only thing.

Q. What kind of cards?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Cards, I play anything.

Q. Why do you still play him then?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Because I try, I want to win one. I just try to win once, you know. I won a few sets of table tennis. That's about the only thing. But never -- he hates to lose, especially to his girlfriend. That would even be worse, I think.

Q. Going back to tennis, coming into this tournament, has your confidence in your game ever been as high as it is at the moment?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I feel good. I think sort of since the end of sort of last year, Filderstadt, then I started playing really well. Sort of since -- I think in Indian Wells, my form, rhythm started to go a little bit. I wasn't hitting the ball as clean as I was in the end of the year and the beginning of this year. But, you know, even when you're not playing your best, you're still, like I said before, you have to fight for every game and work your way into the matches. But it's, yeah, I mean, so far I enjoy every moment on the court. I think that's the most important thing. If you have fun, you play better, too, if you feel good and if you make sure everything's going good, yeah.

Q. How do you feel about the fact that you're always called, "The nicest person on the tour"?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. It's nice, yeah. I like it (smiling).

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