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January 23, 2003

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kim.

Q. Two double-faults there at a tough spot. Was that the shakes? What is going on?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I was feeling pretty good, even that game. That's probably the only thing I regret a little bit is those two double-faults, because I don't know if I would do, you know, anything different in those games where I was up. I think she just, you know, started playing so much more aggressive and she hardly made any unforced errors anymore compared to in the beginning of that third set.

Q. Was it difficult for you to step up your game at the time she raised her level?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, you know, if she plays her best tennis, it's very hard to, you know, beat her. That's what she did towards the end. She just, you know, tried to go for everything. She hit everything a little bit harder and closer to the line. But I kept fighting. I can't blame myself for anything, you know. I just kept trying and tried to hang in there. At the end, you know, it just wasn't good enough at the end.

Q. The extended injury time, did that break your concentration?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, because I think I won the next few games. So, you know, it's always -- I mean, it's always nicer, I think, if you know the match can keep going, also for the spectators I think it's nicer. But, you know, I mean -- I think she had some blisters and stuff. Those can be very painful I think. You have to be, you know, you have to have them treated I think if you want to -- like if you have them, yeah.

Q. It's an obvious question. You must be bitterly disappointed with that loss. Can you tell us what emotions or feelings were going through your mind at the time.

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. Of course I'm disappointed because I was close to beating her. But on the other hand, you know, like I just said before, I just, you know, gave everything I had. And, you know, I was close, you know, really close to winning that. Like even on matchpoint she just came up with too good of shots. It's disappointing, but, you know, I just try to keep my chin up and, you know, there's a next tournament, my next tournament is Antwerp. I'm really looking forward to go home and play that. I play in front of a Belgian crowd.

Q. Do you feel like you've been overrun in the end?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, she was playing really well. She, yeah, she just played, you know, so much more aggressive. The only thing is that I could have made some more first serves, I think, just try to get into a little bit of an advantage from the beginning of the point. But, you know, she hit some really good returns and everything. That's why, you know, she's No. 1 and she can step it up.

Q. Did she say anything to you afterwards?

KIM CLIJSTERS: We've always, you know, been really nice to each other. You know, I have a lot of, you know, respect for every player. No, I mean, she just -- I mean, I can't even remember what she said. But I, you know, congratulated her. I said that she deserved to win.

Q. Everybody thinks you've moved up a level, I mean, very close to the Williams sisters. How did you achieve this rise?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. It's just, I think, a lot of things together I think. You know, experience and just hard work, I think. I think this is my fourth or fifth year on the tour. Out of every match you win or lose, you learn something. I got more consistent, and I think that's probably been my main, you know, step forward, is my consistency I think so far, yep.

Q. You've played Venus and Serena. Who is the hardest to beat?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, they're both tough. They have, you know, they have different things, I think. Serena has a better serve and a better second serve than Venus, I think. So against Venus you can sometimes take a little bit more of an advantage from that second serve. But, you know, on the other hand, Venus, she's very, very tough, you know, very tough competitor as well. Keeps hanging in there. Runs well. So they're both tough. I mean, it's very hard to say who's the toughest or, you know, who's the best.

Q. Thinking back on that match, it seemed from outside you either lost it instead of her win it. Was it nerves?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I wasn't nervous at all actually. No, not at all. No, I don't know. No, I think, like I said, I think she just started hitting the winners and much more than what she was in the beginning of the third set, where I went 5-1 up.

Q. Both Serena and Venus are getting a bit tired of the questions about the gap between the players.

KIM CLIJSTERS: So am I actually.

Q. Does today suggest the gap's not that big?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I think they probably know that as well. You know, it's just a matter of having to -- for you guys, you ask it once, but, you know, we have to answer it from each one of you, you know. So it's -- because we were actually joking about it yesterday in the locker room after our matches, you know. She goes, "Oh, I'm so sick of all these questions." I said, "Well, so am I. Why don't we just boycott it all?" (Laughter). No, but it's -- yeah, I mean, I think this match shows, and I think in other matches it's showed before that, you know, more players are getting close to them - not just me.

Q. How sore are you after doing all those splits?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I'm not sore, no (smiling).

Q. What does it feel like to be embraced like you are by the Australian public?

KIM CLIJSTERS: It's a great feeling. Like even though I lost, I enjoyed every moment that I had on the court today and just playing in front of the crowd. Just made me, you know, even enjoy it a lot more than other matches. Big match, center court, like a Grand Slam. Yeah, it was a great feeling, even though I lost. I still had a great time out there.

Q. There's suggestion about an Agassi-Graf team, what about Clijsters-Hewitt?

KIM CLIJSTERS: We've played before. I think we made the quarters of the French and the finals of Wimbledon once. But it's just, you know, I think if Steffi would have been playing singles still, I don't think she would have been playing both either. I don't know. You know, who knows. Once, when our careers are maybe slowing down a little bit, we might just put some mixed doubles in it as well. I really enjoy playing mixed doubles. It's a lot of fun, very relaxing. Yeah, I have a good partner (laughter).

Q. You had two matchpoints. Would you have played those any differently in retrospect?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. I mean, she took the risk, literally. She came to the net, you know, and just went for it. So, you know, all the credit to her I think on those points to take such a big risk to really go for her shots, yeah.

Q. Was there any point where you started to feel like you were losing control?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Not really. Like, you know, I could feel that she was really trying to step it up and that she was, you know, hitting the balls a lot more aggressive and had almost none unforced errors at the end. That's when you just have to say, "Too good." You know, that's why she's the No. 1. That's why, you know, she's won, I think, one of the last, you know -- the three Grand Slams in a row now, yeah.

Q. Last winter you were having to rehab your shoulder a couple hours a day. Have you gotten over the hump?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I'm still doing all that stuff. It's maybe not as disciplined as what it was a year ago, but I still, you know, spend a lot of -- you know, maybe I'll do my exercises one day and then have one day off. But I still do it, like about four times, five times a week. That's something that I really, really have to keep doing as long as I play tennis. It's not a matter of once I feel better I have to stop it, because then it's a problem that can come back very easily. So I just have to keep it up. You know, it can be a bit boring sometimes. I have to just keep in mind it's for me to play tennis. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to do it.

End of FastScripts….

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