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April 2, 2005

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: Before we start, some numbers surrounding today's win by Kim, which you might be interested in: She's the first unseeded woman ever to win the NASDAQ-100; only the second player ever to do the American double - Indian Wells and Miami - after Steffi Graf in '94; she's beaten the top three players in the world in the last two tournaments; she's only the second player ever, after Graf, to win the tournament playing seven matches without dropping a set. So after that, questions to Kim.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Thanks (laughing).

Q. By the statistics we just heard, you are better now than before. Before the injury you never did it, the double. Many people agree that you played so solid and with so much energy.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I think that playing with so much energy has definitely something to do that I didn't play tennis for so long. I think being in that situation was very tough at times. But I think it's made me realize how much I enjoy playing tennis and how much I enjoy going to tournaments and being able to play those big matches. Even today, as well, I was really looking forward to this match today. Even the last -- whenever you can play those Top 10 girls, the seeded players, it's a challenge. Especially for me in my situation now, I want to look where I'm at. I've been very, very happy with the way I've been playing the last four weeks.

Q. A boring question and you've been asked this many times along the way, but can you go through your injuries and the time you were out, when you were first injured at Indian Wells, was it?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Okay. I got injured in Indian Wells last year. Then I was in a brace for about two months, I think; I don't know the exact time, but just rough. And then I played -- tried to play Fed Cup. I played with a brace. Then I was still sore.

Q. On the wrist?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yes. Then I tried to play Berlin. But, you know, I played one match with a brace and then the next day it just flared up again. And then I went to the hospital. They put me in a sort of like a cast for like a month, just to see how it was recovering. Then every two, three weeks I needed to have an MRI just to see if it was getting better. For two weeks, like the first two MRIs, it was getting better, but then it just stopped. Like, it didn't go back completely. So then on the 12th of June I had surgery. I had a tear in my tendon.

Q. Tear in your tendon?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yep. They sort of fixed that. Then while my wrist was open, they saw that I had a cyst under the tendon and they shaved off the bone. Every time I would hit a backhand, like they could see that it was too long. That's what sort of caused the tear in the tendon. Then I was in a plaster for two months, which was very annoying because it was like a plaster up to here. I was walking around like that all the time. And then, yeah, you just start rehab. Yep, that was probably the toughest time because, you know, once you come out of the plaster, you think, "How the hell am I ever going to play tennis again?" You come out and you have no more muscles there. You can't even, you know -- like you can't even move your fingers anymore. So you think -- and even the first two weeks, you're doing rehab maybe three hours a day and it's not improving a lot. But I did that for a while. Then I went to America for six weeks. Started, you know, to hit. My first week that I got there, started doing some movements with the racquet, backhand movements. Yeah, then sort of each week gradually built up my training and started to hit with some softballs, then some mini tennis, with a hard ball. This is long - sorry, guys (smiling).

Q. It will be done for once and all.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, it's like a big circle till I get back here. So then started training a little bit at the US Open. But I always had the feeling that something wasn't right, but I didn't know if it was surgery pains or if something was wrong. So then I had an MRI in Belgium. The doctors sort of gave me the "all-clear". So I played Hasselt. I was very happy. You know, I played well for two matches and won those two matches. But then against Bovina, I don't know exactly when it was...

THE MODERATOR: 4-3 in the first set.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Thanks, John. 4-3 in the first set, then I hit this backhand return and I felt something snap. That's when I hit the capsule - is that how you say it? - the capsule around the tendon snapped, not completely, but it torn -- it was sort of like half off. So, yeah, so then I sort of -- they put me in a cast again for two months. And then everything started to get better (laughing). So from then on, everything started to get more positive, and then on the (3rd?) of January I hit my first backhands. And I'm here so...

Q. During that period did you keep on doing physical training to keep in shape?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I did, but not for the times that I was in the plaster because I wasn't allowed to -- like even running, I wasn't allowed to have the shocks with the wrist, especially with the tendon because it's very sensitive. So just when I was in a plaster, I wasn't doing much, maybe just riding the bike a little bit, but not a lot.

Q. One of the most important points in this match was a breakpoint in the second set, seventh game. Maria had an overhead. As soon as she looked up, you took off to the corner, anticipating where she was going to hit it. Can you take us through that whole sequence.


Q. And how difficult was it to hit just the right lob, from so high?

KIM CLIJSTERS: That's the thing. You cannot describe it now. Because it happens at the time, and it's just (snapping)... It's not even a second. You just have to take a decision. I mean, you know, "Which side am I going to go to?" You sort of try to guess, and you run to that side. I was very happy that I could see the ball come into my direction. I sort of had another shot at it. Then, you know, just try to make that ball, make her go for the winner. You know, it was a time where it was a bit close. She got maybe a little bit nervous, maybe tentative, and she missed that forehand inside-out.

Q. When you hit the lob, how difficult is it to factor in the wind?

KIM CLIJSTERS: But that's the thing, you know, you don't think about that at the time. You just, you know, hit it up. You try to, you know -- you know you're hitting against the wind. I knew I had to put a little bit more power into it if I wanted to get it deep.

Q. (Inaudible)?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, but you're doing that every rally 'cause, you know, you're playing on two different sides of the court - one side you're playing with the wind, one side against the wind. At the time, when I was hitting the shot, you just throw it up and hopefully it gets in.

Q. How important was that?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, that was really important. I think just also for her. Those kind of things make your opponent maybe think a little bit.

Q. You seemed kind of shocked when you won, maybe a little teary-eyed. Can you talk about your emotions.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. It was -- again, even this one is even harder to believe, I think, this victory. Yeah, I don't know what to say about all this. It's been an incredible four weeks. I'm just going to try to enjoy it as much as I can, I guess.

Q. In your mind what was the difference in the match today?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think, you know, I think what I did really well today was be patient. Because in these conditions, it's very hard to play your own tennis and to play aggressively because, you know, like I said, with the wind, it's very hard. And on each side of the court you sort of have to produce different tactics, I guess, and you have to adjust your game a little bit. I think I did that really well today. I think I adjusted pretty good to the conditions and then I think I was maybe a little more patient today than she was.

Q. What's going through your mind in the first game when you served for the match?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I knew that was going to be tough.

Q. She played a very good game.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, very good. I had some trouble serving on that side before because that was probably the side where she would be playing with the wind. That was a little tougher. I even felt when I was serving on that side that I was winning my games, my serve games, a little bit more easily. The wind just puts a little more into the ball on that side. I was very happy that I could serve for the second time on the other side of the court.

Q. How cool is it, I mean, you come close to winning these, you win six matches in a row and haven't won that seventh. Now inside of a month you've won seven in a row twice.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. Like I said, you know, last week people started asking me, you know, seven matches in a row. It's, like I said, it's been amazing. I really don't have any, you know -- I'm, of course, very happy with it, but it's very hard to describe. Even after winning Indian Wells I, you know, came here and was really looking forward to coming here because I couldn't play here last year because I was injured. Yeah, so it's all -- this whole trip has been so much fun. Just, you know, being able to be back on the court, but also off court, seeing all the girls again, seeing some guys back on tour. It's been great to see everyone as well.

Q. Which surprised you more, to win Indian Wells or here?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think this one, yeah. After a few matches, I was feeling pretty tired. I, you know, thought maybe I'm not going to last because I had a few little aches and pains. You know, luckily they didn't get any worse. But it's, you know, I tried to just get the best out of it, tried to have lots of massages, look after my body. You know, I think that I'm probably the most thankful of, is that I was healthy throughout these two whole weeks.

Q. Were you eager to test yourself against the Russians? There was a lot of talk last year, a lot of publicity about the "Russian Revolution," Russian girls coming up. When you were sitting there watching that on your TV or whatever, were you eager to test your game against these girls and see where they really were?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Of course. But not just against the Russians, against everyone. Like I said before, you want to play those, you know, the best players out there. And I'm very happy that I got the opportunity to do that in Indian Wells, to play Lindsay there, and to play Dementieva, and then here to play against Amelie, who's been playing well. So I was, yeah, very happy that I had the chances and that I gave myself the chances to play against those girls and sort of to look at where I was. So, yeah.

Q. Do you feel like the game, people had forgotten you? Did you feel like the game was passing you by, you weren't going to be part of it?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I wasn't thinking about that at all, no.

Q. Will you stay in the States now?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I'll go home.

Q. You won't play tournaments here?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I have Warsaw. I have three weeks off, then probably have, you know, probably about maybe four, five days off and just...

Q. Berlin also?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yep. And then Rome. But I'm just going to see how the wrist is doing and how the wrist is coping with playing on the clay because this is, you know, this is definitely going to be a tough surface for me. So I'm not, you know, I'm not really -- I'm very happy to go and play this, you know, for me the first Grand Slam of the year, but it's definitely not a goal for me now.

Q. With all these things you've described, casts and everything like that, how high was your discouragement? Did you feel "Maybe I am through"?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, especially when I got the injury, the second injury, when I played in Hasselt. Even the doctor said, you know, I could sort of tell they weren't -- to my face they were like, "Try." But then when my dad would speak to them or if my coach would speak to them, they would say it could be over. That's tough to hear because I still felt like, you know, I had such a great time playing those two matches that I played in Hasselt. So that was tough for a while. But, you know, you don't want to think about that. You start your rehab and you want to get better and you want to improve and you hope things will get better. And so luckily they did.

Q. The momentum you have going into the clay court season, the French Open, your possible first Slam, have you ever had this high confidence before?

KIM CLIJSTERS: You know, I'm playing well at the moment. But, like you said, you know, the clay is a completely different surface. It's good that you have confidence, but, you know, it's still a long time. And I'm, you know -- like I said before, I think the clay is, in my situation now, I mean maybe the few years before, I was really -- started to train hard straightaway on the clay, but now I have to take it a little bit more slow because I'm in a situation where I cannot afford to have, you know, this problem again. And I have to be careful. So I'll, you know, I have to say that I'll be very happy when the clay court season is over, I guess.

Q. Is there any potential long-term benefit in really having to draw back so far from the game and being able to look at where the other people are, where you've been, what might be different, what you might want to do different, or is it all just down side?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, but I think it's -- like I said before, again, it's made me realize how much I've missed it. I think to have been through that situation, I think, has made me I think maybe a more mature person on and off court, just knowing, you know, how much I love the game and how much I love playing tennis, how much I love playing those big matches. And that's a good -- I was very happy that I was feeling that way. In the first three months, I didn't feel that at all. I was enjoying my time at home. I was just, you know, meeting lots of people in Belgium, just doing other things than tennis. I wasn't thinking about the tennis at all. Towards the end, the more I started watching some tournaments, I watched the Championships, that was sort of the first tournament where I said, "I would have done everything just to have been there." So that was the first time that I probably started to get a little bit homesick from the tour (smiling).

Q. 14 matches in three weeks. How is your wrist?

KIM CLIJSTERS: It's pretty good. You know, I don't have any problems hitting my backhands, but it's been -- I started playing with a tape three matches ago because I just felt like the tendon was just getting a little tired. Just out of prevention. But I feel rotating it, just sort of this way, I just feel it pulling a little bit. But, you know, like you said, my work is done here so now I can just look after this. And next couple of days when I go home I'll go to, you know, just to the hospital, have another MRI just to make sure that everything's fine before I start practicing on the clay.

Q. What did you realistically expect to do here?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Before I came here -- because I felt in Antwerp that I needed a lot of matches, I was still missing match rhythm. I was sort of hoping to maybe play two or three matches in sort of each tournament. But then, you know, once you're on a roll, just the ball keeps rolling, I guess. So, yeah (smiling)...

Q. On your way to the final, you managed to beat Dementieva and Mauresmo with the loss of just four games, beating the World No. 2 and No. 5. Does that say something about...

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I was, like I said, I think in those matches, I was, you know, I think all -- this whole trip, I've been moving really well. Those are definitely the kind of girls who like to move you around, especially Dementieva. She's a player who's very steady. I think against her I played a really good match and a combination of both; I moved really well, I was aggressive, and I made her go for more than she normally does, so I got her out of her comfort zone. That was a really good thing to feel during that match. So I know those, you know, the scores definitely sound a lot easier than what it felt like on the court so...

Q. Players like Sharapova, the wind isn't necessarily the best conditions for them.


Q. Do you change your tactics in wind like this, maybe make the ball wiggle just a little bit more? What tactics do you want to use against a player like Sharapova in this kind of wind?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I don't think it's, you know -- I think when there's so much wind, and it was changing a lot out there as well, the wind was changing, so it's not a matter of who you're playing; I think you just have to think about yourself and think about your own game. Because I knew that, you know, maybe -- she hits the ball a little bit flatter than I do. So I think maybe on my side it was a little easier to, you know, when I was hitting with the wind, to roll the ball in and make sure that I hit it, you know, I hit some topspin on the ball. And just patience, I think, was the most important thing out there today. It was try to stay calm, not get aggravated, I think, by some easier mistakes that you'll make because of the wind. And footwork, you know. I mean, that always has to be pretty good. But even in situations like this, you know, you just have to be on the tip of your feet -- on your toes for the whole time.

Q. Did you feel tired playing this final, and could you have played maybe three sets if Sharapova had won the second one?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, yeah. You know, this is -- you know, I'm sure that in my mind if it would have been a third set, you know this is the last set of the tournament, just give everything you have. I still felt pretty good, so that's okay.

End of FastScripts….

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