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September 9, 2005

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: Questions in English for Kim, please.

Q. You looked tough, you looked strong, you looked focused. What did you do to prepare? You were kind of a dark horse. You were out there, everybody was focused on Venus, Sharapova, and Lindsay. You kind of came up and passed them.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Thank you. No, I've been working hard. In these last, you know -- I've had a really good American summer so far, and I've been playing well. I think overall after last year and after having knee problems this year and then a hip problem, I think, you know, I know that, you know, there's a lot of things that I have to do before -- you know, before I'm able to play the tennis that I've been playing today. I think in a way it's made me a little bit more disciplined and a little bit more focused on the things that I have to do for my tennis, I think. It's made me realize, too, if I want to be able to -- I'm not the kind of player who's going to go out there and, you know, if you don't feel 100%, then it's very frustrating for me. You know, that was what it was like when I played in Paris, you know, with my knee. It was frustrating. I told myself after that, I said, "You know, I want to, for the next two years, give it everything I have. Every day I'm going to do my exercises, I'm going to make sure I do everything right." And I think in a way, doing all those things -- because they are very boring exercises, but every day I have to do them. I think in a way that's made me a little bit more maybe focused out there as well, you know, knowing that every day there's something that I have to do and I know that I've done everything out there for me to feel the best that I can.

Q. When you have those five matchpoints in the second set, could you feel how close you were to winning the match, and then how did you put them out of your mind?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I don't think -- I mean, I know I didn't play bad points there. She had to come up with good shots, and she did. You know, probably better than -- she probably hit better shots in those points than she hit in the whole match, I think. It was just -- obviously, I mean, it was a little frustrating afterwards. Then she took the medical time-out where she went to the toilet, and that just, yeah, gave me a little time to think as well. You know, I was saying to myself, you know, "She came up with those shots, you know, in the last minute, you know. Just try to refocus from the start. If she plays like this for the whole match, well, too good. But just let her do that again if she wants to beat me."

Q. Did you feel when the third set began she might have been a little bit spent emotionally because of having to come back in the second set?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. You know, I think if it would have been the other way around, I think you would be on a really, you know, big adrenaline high. You would be going and you would be playing well. I am -- I think I took over, you know, straightaway. It was obviously great for me to break her that first game, you know. I think that definitely, you know, made it a lot easier for me, too.

Q. At what point in the third set did you know, though, that you'd have to play bigger offense? Because even in the third set she would push back even after 4-2.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, she did. She started -- she's very good at that. I mean, I've seen her play some matches before, when she's down, she really goes for her shots and, you know, she takes a lot of risks. Like on matchpoint, even like at, you know, when I was serving for it at 5-2, she hit some -- four incredible returns. Too good. Again, let her do it for the next few games. Try and be consistent. You know, that's what I was trying to do, just trying to be consistent and I was trying to keep the unforced errors down at the end, too.

Q. Maria said she felt like she ran out of gas in that third set. How much do you know that your fitness level and ability to cover so much ground is to your advantage? How much do you know that in your head?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I know that I'm not going to get tired if I have to play a third set, and that's a great feeling to have - knowing that that's not going to be a problem for me. I can go out there and play that third set, knowing that, you know, it's going to take my opponent to play good tennis to beat me. You know, it's not going to be -- I'm not going to break down physically, you know. I didn't do it against Venus, I didn't do it today. That's a really good feeling to have. So, you know, just try to, you know -- that's, you know, one less thing to worry about, I think. You might have opponents who worry about, you know, trying to keep the rallies short or -- you know, in the third set, or trying to get them over quickly, but that's -- I don't have to do that.

Q. Your parents are both athletes. Can you recall any advice that they gave you that would stick with you in a match like today?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I mean, I don't know. Not really during the match. But, you know, preparation, after the match. I mean, especially with my dad, he's -- you know, he was a top athlete in Belgium, and, you know, physically he's a very strong guy as well. You know, so I think you learn a lot. I've definitely learned a lot from him, not just tennis-wise, but also when I was injured, just trying to recover from everything. He's been very -- it's very hard to just pick one thing because I feel like every day still he teaches me new things.

Q. No new phrase or constant thing that he learned from football?

KIM CLIJSTERS: The only thing what my parents have always taught me is that no matter what you do, you're playing a sport. And, you know, if you go out there, you know, we want you to give it 100%. Especially when I was younger, too. Because tennis, it's an expensive sport. And they said, you know, We're willing, you know, we're happy -- if you enjoy it, we're happy to pay for it but give yourself 100% out there. I think that's something they always taught me, to enjoy it. Even when I was younger, they've always told me, If you don't enjoy it, you try to find another sport that you like to do. So I think that's, you know, a really great attitude from my parents.

Q. You're still quite young. Mary is 30 years old, she has had a couple of injuries that were treated on court today. You both have to play tomorrow. How much of an edge does it give you in the timing of the match?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Like I said, physically, I feel pretty good, but I've had -- my last two matches have been pretty tough. I think also, you know, those two days off were, I think, good for my body to -- you know, to recover from that match against Venus. But I think in a way, for the tennis, you like to stay in your routine. And I think that's maybe also why I think Maria and I today weren't playing our best tennis from the start, I guess, because we both had, you know, two days off. I think you just had to get into it a little bit again. But, you know, talking about Mary, I mean, she looks -- I mean, to me, she looks fitter than she ever looked. She looks like she's moving well. It's the end of the tournament. I'm sure there's little aches and pains in everybody's body, but that's something you have to deal with now.

Q. Are there things from your other experiences in Grand Slam finals you've been in that you can take into the match tomorrow to help you?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I think in the previous Grand Slam finals, I think I, uhm -- I don't know, maybe -- it's very hard to compare it because I feel, in a way, you know, different, I think. You know, like that was a lot before my injury. I've realized a lot more how much I missed tennis. That's the whole, you know, completely different attitude that I have now, is, you know, no matter what I do, I'm going to go for it because, you know, it could be over. Like if I get another wrist injury, if I have anything else, my career could be over very soon. That's why I just want to go out there and just enjoy every shot that I can hit.

Q. In his career, did your father ever experience any kind of injury?

KIM CLIJSTERS: A lot more than me (smiling).

Q. His experience, did he transmit to you anything?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Oh, definitely. He's had -- I don't know how many surgeries he had. I think he's had six surgeries on both knees. And, you know, when he was older, at his age as well, in his 30s, soccer, he was a defender. It was tough for him, I think. A lot of people and the press sort of wrote him down and said, that's it, he'll never come back. But he came back and he played for the national team again. And, you know, I think in a way that's, you know -- it helped. Those were stories that he told me, too, you know, when I was -- there were times definitely last year when I was struggling, especially when doctors were saying, "We don't know if you're going to be able to play that tennis that you have been playing in 2003," when I was playing great. That's very frustrating to hear, especially because I'm still young. So, you know, in a way I think -- in a way it's good, too, that I was young so my body can probably recover quicker. But, yeah, no, there was a lot of frustrating moments. But, you know, that's what family is there for, you know. That's when you realize how important it is to have those people around you.

Q. Did you, within yourself, doubt that you would ever be able to come back?


Q. And how did you deal with that? What was the process of how you dealt with that?

KIM CLIJSTERS: You know, not for very long, but -- you know, well, I mean, I was -- I've had more MRIs last year than, I don't know, you know. Like, I mean, I think I had like between 12 and 20, you know, everywhere I went, if I was at a tournament. At the start it was just -- then every time you hear the doctors, every time you go to a hospital, you sort of hope for the doctors to say, "No, no, this looks pretty good, you can recover from this." But, no, they were all saying the same thing. They were all saying, "You need surgery, we cannot really promise you if you're going to be able to play the same tennis again." So that was very frustrating. So I didn't, you know, for a couple of days, like I was just -- didn't know what to think about it, you know. But then just, again, talking to your family, to my dad, then you realize, you know, if you want to come back, you can. If your mind is set right, if you think positive, then I think you can fight anything.

Q. Previous four finals that you played, players always say, "Yeah, I think I can win or I wouldn't be in the final if I didn't think I could win it." But now that it's passed and you can look back on them, honestly, did you go into those finals thinking, "I'm going to win this," or were there finals, particularly at the French Open, where you thought you would be lucky to win this match?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Obviously, you don't really, you know, think about it too much. I mean, it's such a long time ago, too, so it's very hard to remember, you know, what I was thinking, you know, just before it. But, you know, I mean, obviously, when I played my first one, it was a different story. It was a whole new experience. It was playing, you know, Jennifer Capriati, who was one of my idols. I always remembered watching her play, when she was 14, I remembered watching her. That was a different one. But then playing Justine in the next three was, you know, it was tough. I mean, she just played great tennis, I think. I don't think I played my best tennis in any of those matches. But, you know, again, tomorrow is -- has nothing to do with those matches. So we'll see what happens.

Q. Is it important for you to play to win tomorrow and not to play not to lose?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Of course. That's what you have to do every match, you know. Especially I think with the type of tennis that I play and Mary plays, too. I definitely have to go out there and go for my shots and play my game and be aggressive, move well. And, you know, I don't think my serve percentage was very good today either so that's something I'll definitely have to keep up tomorrow because, you know, she's definitely returning well when she's there. When she's behind the ball, she probably hits the ball harder than any girl out there at the moment. She's a strong girl, too, so she's got a lot of power.

Q. What were you doing a year ago?


Q. What were you doing a year ago? You weren't here?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I was here, I was here to watch Lleyton, yeah.

Q. I've been watching you, I watched you against Venus, I watched you today. The sliding, is it the sneakers?

KIM CLIJSTERS: (Smiling). Uhm, I don't know. I wouldn't be able to do it in high heels, I think (laughing). You know, I don't know. Are you saying my sneakers are bad or...

Q. I mean, I've watched women's tennis all week. You're the only girl I seen slide so much.

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I don't know what to say to that, you know. Just that, you know, I'm lucky that my sneakers, you know, that they let me do it because it helps me a lot. You know, it makes me win a lot of points. It makes me get a lot of balls back. So I'm going to keep doing it (smiling).

Q. Did making the public announcement that you're going to retire in two years, has that given you any more freedom on the court just to sort of go out and play, knowing that in two years there's an end?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I just think for myself that it's nice to have that goal. For me, that's why I did it, too. I have that goal and, you know, for the next two years, like I said before, I'm going to -- I have to look after my body. It's -- my body is not the same as it was two years ago, three years ago. Every day there's a lot more work to do, a lot more looking after to do. Hopefully, I can last two more years. But that's the thing. I'm going to try and give everything I can for the next two years.

Q. Elena was in earlier and said she was frustrated with Mary's pace of play. She took a long injury break. She takes so much time to serve the ball, to get ready for every point. Do you foresee any frustration?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I don't think that should worry -- you shouldn't really be focusing on those kind of things, I think, out there. You just have to focus on your game, and no matter what your opponent is doing. You know, you just -- I mean, I've played her before. I played her in Paris at the start of - I don't know, was it this year or last year - I played her last year. So she takes a lot of time, but it doesn't matter. I mean, it doesn't bother me.

Q. When you're playing as well as you've been playing, can you smell or sense the fear in the opponent's eye or body language, when you see them fighting back?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Tennis court is very big. It's very hard to just... (smiling).

Q. What is your strategy at that point when you see her struggling or she's desperate at the point, you see it and you want to make sure you do X, Y and Z?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Sometimes you can read your opponent's attitude a little bit on the court. Obviously, when you see they're sort of hanging their head down or throwing their racquet or talking, you know, whatever, swearing, that's something that you hear. But, you know, I think for all the other cases, you just try to really focus on yourself and try to just stay mentally tough yourself. I think that's -- as long as you do that, I think that, you know, you shouldn't -- I mean sometimes, you know, it's a good thing to see your opponent, you know, getting down on herself or getting really angry at herself. I think that's, yeah, sometimes a good thing to see, also.

Q. Sharapova cried a lot, for instance.


Q. Sharapova cried a lot.


Q. You didn't see it?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Oh, no, I didn't see that.

Q. She looked like she was crying.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Really? I didn't see this.

Q. She got emotional. I was curious as to what you're thinking when you see that in your opponent?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I didn't see that. I think I was just really focused on myself. I doubt it if she was crying, though (smiling).

Q. By making the retirement announcement and deciding to retire in two years, doesn't that put a little more pressure on yourself to win the big titles now?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. No, not at all. I think, you know, just like I said, it just makes me -- it gives me that goal and it gives me, you know -- I enjoy playing tennis, but, you know, like I said, I also want to -- I know especially the last couple days, after the Venus match, you should see, I mean, the way I walk around, like everything is hurting. You know, my ankles, my wrists, everything is just sore and, you know, making a lot of noise (smiling). So just, yeah, I'm 22 but definitely my body is not 22 anymore.

Q. The top players always say they play for titles and not money. How does it feel for you to play for double the prize money? What does it say about women's tennis that you're playing for the most money at any women's event ever?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I think overall, for the sport of tennis, I think it's a great thing. I think that's where women's tennis should be at. I think, you know, we're such, you know, such a world sport. You know, a lot of us girls, we're known all over the world, compared to a lot of other women's sports, I think. You know, this is where women's tennis should be at. For me personally, I'm not going to go out there tomorrow thinking, you know, "I'm playing for 2.2 million." No, not at all. But, you know, at the end, if, you know, I would, great. It's a great bonus. But it's not something that, you know -- that's not what you play for, not at all.

End of FastScripts….

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