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March 18, 2005

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kim.

Q. Do you find it difficult to be ranked 133 coming into this tournament?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No (smiling). Not at all.

Q. Do the other players find it difficult?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I don't know. No, I don't. You know, the ranking, even when you're Top 10, it's not something that has bothered me too much. You know, it's nice when I became No. 1. You know, they're great feelings. But the ranking is just a number. What I enjoy the most, definitely now, is how I'm playing and that I'm able to play again.

Q. It doesn't bother you that they got rid of the protective ranking, seeding, all that stuff for injuries?


Q. What level would you say you are at at the moment striking the ball and moving? Surprisingly good?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, better than I thought. Definitely, yeah. Even already in Antwerp, I started hitting the ball really well in those first few matches. So here I sort of just, you know, kept going upwards, I think. I felt like I've been hitting the ball better towards each match. You know, that's a good thing. That's good to have that feeling back again. And hopefully, you know, it will keep rising through to the final.

Q. What were your expectations of getting back to this level, maybe sort of halfway through the clay or something like that?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I didn't really set any expectations, I think, because I knew it was going to be tough, but never really sort of said it like an expectation thing, saying, "This is where I want to be back or playing my best tennis." I always hoped to be playing my best tennis in the first match I play, but I think that's not very realistic thinking. You know, I'm happy, definitely happy, with the way I've been playing. But I didn't expect it to be so soon.

Q. What does it say about your tennis?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. You tell me.

Q. You look very happy, like a child on Christmas.

KIM CLIJSTERS: I am happy. That's what I just said in the interview there, as well. This is probably the happiest I've been to be in the final. I think in the year 2003, you know, I was enjoying all that, but I think you only realize how much it means if you haven't had it for a while, I think. If you've been off for so long, they tell you it might be tough to get back and you might not be able to compete again. This definitely means a lot more. It sort of says, "See, I can do it."

Q. During the injury timeout, you were working on your left elbow or wrist? Is it still stiff or sore?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, especially during medical timeouts, I just try to, you know, make sure that I keep it loose, because you never know. Like she did, as well, she just came out and started hitting the balls as hard as she could. That's why I just wanted to make sure that it stays loose. It was a little bit colder out there today, as well. Took some more time to warm it up. But it was not because there was pain or anything. Just to think ahead, I think.

Q. Two matches in a row you had to sit there for medical timeouts. Does that get a little annoying?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I mean, it's -- you know, I think that's part of sports. But, you know, you just have to try -- you try not to worry about it. It can be hard sometimes, but you try just to focus on what you have to do next. You know, she came out today just firing the balls past my ears, sort of. She was going for every shot, trying to keep the rallies really short, and it worked for a game or so. But, you know, I just had to stay focused and just did my thing. Yeah, it was pretty easy in the end.

Q. Is it difficult to play a player when she is injured? Do you have to focus twice as hard?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, it's in your mind. Whether you want it or not, it's in there. You're thinking about it. You see her sort of looking over to the side and shaking her head. But then, you know, the next point she just hits a winner. She hits a winner forehand cross-court. That's when you try to just block it out and try to focus on what you have to do. But it can be a little bit distracting sometimes, yes.

Q. Is it fair to say that in the next match, whether it's Maria or Lindsay, you're really going to find out where your level is?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. I mean, it could be. You know, either one of them, they've been playing great tennis. In the past, I've had really good matches against Lindsay. You know, definitely a few that stand out for me. And against Maria, you know, I haven't played her that often yet, especially in the last year or so. I think I played her in Luxembourg two years ago or so, just before she started breaking through. But, you know, I'm looking forward. These are definitely the kind of matches, even the one today, these are the matches that I look forward to. So I'm definitely going to enjoy my time out there tomorrow.

Q. Elena said power-wise, movement-wise, you're there, forehand and serve are there, but she feels maybe on your backhand side you're not as confident on the down-the-line. Are you hitting out like you want to?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I'm trying to, yeah. I'm trying to. I think, you know, against players like her, I'm definitely not going to go for each winner on my backhand side. But I try to sort of, you know, change the directions really well. And I think that I did that pretty well today. My backhand has never really - even before - been a shot where I would hit more winners off. I would set up the points well and then sort of finish it off with my forehand, I think. That's probably still the case. But I think, you know, that backhand, like I said, it's not -- it's not unusual that it's maybe not the same as it was before. But I think I'm managing pretty well to get through my matches, so...

Q. You're coming off an injury. Andre just pulled out. Could you tell us how tough a game tennis is. Is it pretty brutal in its way?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, especially the type of tennis. If you see it today, it's changed so much. Especially I think it's so -- like physique, it's so demanding, it demands a lot of your body just by the way that the girls are playing. Each ball gets hit as hard as they can. You don't really talk about defending it. You know, when you're running around, maybe in the past they would loop up a higher ball, but now they just try to go for a winner even when you're two meters behind the baseline. I think those kind of situations are tougher on the body. But I think, you know, there's a lot of things to do, you know, to try to be as fit as possible, to prevent those kind of injuries, to make sure you have everything right around it.

Q. Who on the women's tour impresses you the most in terms of her physical toughness, conditioning?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think I've always admired Amanda Coetzer. She's been definitely one of the players that I've always admired. She was definitely not the tallest girl out there, but she worked so hard. She was definitely I think the one that I thought was probably the fittest one out there. She could play all day I think.

Q. Could you talk about the challenges that Davenport or Sharapova will present.

KIM CLIJSTERS: They have similar strokes. I think they go for shots, you know, they try to be aggressive all the time, they hit the ball very clean. You know, there's similar styles. I think Maria moves a little better than Lindsay. I think Lindsay, if she's on, she hits so deep, like to the lines and everything, it's tough to beat her. But, like I said, you know, Maria is Maria. She hits the ball and has a fighting spirit that is great to see again, to have someone who shows it, yeah.

Q. What are your thoughts on playing doubles?

KIM CLIJSTERS: So far, you know, I haven't really decided what I'm thinking of quite yet. I definitely want to play doubles again. Not like I did in 2003, not every tournament, but I'd like to mix it up a little bit again, maybe at the Grand Slams or maybe some mixed doubles at the Grand Slams, something like that, just to make sure I get those volleys back and just feel, you know, confident at the net as well.

Q. With no expectations coming into the tournament, now getting to the finals, are you believing you can win this?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I'm playing well. Definitely you always have to believe in yourself, otherwise I think you've lost already if you don't think you're capable of competing against all the other girls out there. But I'm going to try everything I can to, you know, play my best tennis out there.

Q. What would it mean to win this tournament to you?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. If it's that case tomorrow, I'll tell you. I don't know. I don't know yet.

Q. A number of No. 1 players have come back from injuries and not shown the same type of confidence that you are now: Venus, Hingis. You don't seem to have lost any confidence at all. Can you talk about why that is?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know why that is. You know, I'm just doing my thing out there, you know. I'm not really -- you know I was focusing, I was working really hard during my time off. It's not like I didn't play tennis for the whole year. You know, I was still hitting a lot of balls. You know, maybe not every day or not four hours a day, but I was still making sure I had my rhythm out there so I didn't have a lot of problems once they told me, "Now you can start again," that I didn't have to just, you know, work on everything else as well. I don't know. I haven't seen any other players, you know, the way they've been, you know, going through those tough months. But, you know, that's something that I really felt like I wanted to do, is to make sure once they gave me the all clear to start hitting backhands again and do everything with my left hand that I was ready for it with the rest of my body.

Q. Have you made a final decision for the Fed Cup?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I'm not playing.

Q. Even now that you feel so good?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. You know, that's a thing that I still have to be careful about, you know, is not taking it too fast. I mean, I know that I played well here, I've played a lot of matches here. You know, that's probably even more dangerous, is playing a lot of matches, thinking, "It's okay." Just add more tournaments to it. You know, I have to, especially at this stage, it's still sort of the start of season and I need to not -- you know, be patient. But hopefully, you know, in future I might play again, see how it goes with the wrist. So far in the next meeting, I'm definitely not playing.

Q. The kind of feeling you get when you hit a running passing shot for a winner, the crowd goes crazy, the adrenaline rush from competition, was there anything else while you were out that even came close to giving you that kind of satisfaction?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I definitely didn't miss the flying and all that stuff. That's something I didn't miss at all. But, yeah, just that routine and all that, the preparing, sort of the "locker room smell," all that stuff. I also sort of missed hanging around with the girls. You know, the girls that I probably was talking to the most weren't here this week. But, you know, it was good to catch up with some of them in Antwerp and hopefully next week in Miami I can catch up with a few of them again. You know, yeah, this is -- tennis has been such a long part of my life. You know, you make friends and it's good to see those again once in a while.

Q. The other day Andre was talking about the fastest man on the men's tour. Who do you think the fastest is on the women's tour?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Wasn't that the last question? Come on, Amy, be tough!

Q. Just making you think.

KIM CLIJSTERS: I'm hungry, I want to go to lunch (smiling).

Q. So do we.


No, I don't know.

Q. Myskina? Justine? Serena? Other than you. Or you.

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, not me. Well, I think, you know, the start speed, like the first few steps, I think Serena is the one. She sees it so quickly, and she takes a few steps and she's there. She just sees it so well. Justine, she's really quick as well. I think Justine has, how do you say it, hand-eye coordination. She's got that really well. But I think from the blocks, I think it's Serena (snapping fingers), yeah.

End of FastScripts….

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