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March 16, 2005

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kim.

Q. Happy to get through this one?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, definitely. Like I said yesterday, you know, three-set matches, you know, doesn't matter if you play them good or bad, it's always a motivation to get through them, I guess. It's always a satisfaction if you can win them. Especially me in this situation now. I think the last three-setter was against Petrova in Antwerp, I think I won that maybe 6-2 in the third also. So, yeah, it was good to get through. Good to end well.

Q. How well are you playing right now?

KIM CLIJSTERS: That's what you're asking me every match. I don't know. I'm playing well. I'm hitting the ball.

Q. I ask you because it's the first time you've been tested.

KIM CLIJSTERS: You know, I felt like I was hitting the ball in the first and third set, not at all in the second set. It's just a matter of having that stability, you know, making sure that I can keep it up and don't lose concentration, I guess.

Q. When you became aware that she was receiving treatment in the first set with you ahead 5-Love, did you think she might retire at that point?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. You know, maybe when I was younger, I would maybe let myself get too into that. You know, you start thinking -- I had it a couple of times in Juniors, you know, where I thought maybe she's going to default, you might not be as aggressive, you might not be as focusing as much on what you have to do in the court. But you learn out of those experiences, I guess. So definitely not any more now. I don't think that at all. It's even more of a challenge to try to even play better, to be more aggressive.

Q. What then did happen in the second set?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I lost concentration, I think. You know, I think she definitely started, you know, playing a little bit more aggressive on her forehand. I think she maybe changed tactics a little bit in the beginning of the second. Yeah, you know, got a bit angry I think at a few line calls. I guess that, yeah, happens.

Q. You felt like the match was yours to control?


Q. If you played well, you win?


Q. Going into the third set, you're thinking if you raised your level again, it was yours?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. It's not really you know, that I was worried after I lost that second set. But I felt like I definitely had to step it up, that I had to make sure that I was playing aggressive again like I was in that first set, make sure that I moved her around, and try not to play too much in the same corner of the court because that's when she can start, you know, like make you move around. So if I made sure that I can just let her run from side to side. Yeah, that's what I just sort of tried to put everything back together and started doing that from the start of the third set.

Q. When you have a significant amount of time off, it can change your perspective on the game. Did your time off change anything, the way you view your vision of the game, philosophy of the game?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I've been through a few things in my private life family-wise, you know, with my mom being sick and everything. You know, it's not -- tennis is still a hobby for me. You know, I even realized that more when I wasn't playing. I missed it. I definitely missed it. But it's not something that, you know, is on my mind all the time. You know, there's more things -- there's things more important in life than tennis, I think. And I realized it even more when I was at home, you know, how much I enjoyed spending time with my family and with my friends. You know, I think it's a matter of having a good routine, I think, or a good routine at home and a good routine on the court and on the road.

Q. People become very involved when they have hobbies like the technique, photography or whatever else. They can reassess things in terms of what they feel the important parts of the game are. Did you watch matches and take things away from it that you couldn't have done earlier because you were too busy playing?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, not really. You know, like I said, when I was at home, definitely the first few months I didn't want to have anything to do with tennis at all. Like I said, I was spending so much time with my family because I never really had a chance to be home, you know, and to do all these other things with my family and friends. So that was definitely something that I really enjoyed. And over the last few years, I sort of lost a lot of contact, I think, with a lot of friends in Belgium, as well, and sort of picked that up again. That was good fun to sort of have that life back there again.

Q. What are your thoughts about your next match against Dementieva?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I was watching that one when I was at home -- in the hotel. Yeah, I mean, it was a good match. There were a few good rallies and very aggressive tennis. You know, like a lot of unforced errors, as well, I think. But that's what happens these days. I think because the tennis is so aggressive, and both girls, you know, you try to hit the ball as hard as you can, I guess. But it was, you know, good to see that Elena, you know, is playing good, as well. You know, I've always -- you know, I've known her for a very long time, played Juniors against her, played doubles in the French Open finals against her. So, you know, we go way back. No, she's a good girl. Yeah, no, I look forward to playing her. It's been a while since I've been able to play against those hard-hitters, I guess, so I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Is it difficult to make a transition from playing Conchita Martinez with all her loops and spins to somebody who hits the ball as firmly as Elena?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I guess if it would have been in the same match, you know, where someone just does it, then I guess it could be a little tough because then you have no rhythm at all, I guess. But tomorrow I have a day off. I'm going to try to hit with - I don't know which girls are still hanging around - maybe a girl that's still in the tournament, try to have a good practice session where there's someone who hits the ball really flat just to have that rhythm back. Because, you know, these kind of matches, you know, they're not the type of matches who will make you feel like, yes, I felt the ball really good, and I've been hitting the ball well. So tomorrow I'll definitely have a good hour of practice against one of the girls.

Q. You played Elena six times, she beat you once I think the first time. A few close matches. Last times you got her really good. Do you think it's a possibility that she has actually gotten a fair amount better during your time off?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think so. I think I've actually seen her, you know, get better over the last couple of years, I guess. I've seen her be more confident on the court. I think that's maybe what was maybe a little bit of her problem in the past is that, you know -- I saw her play a few of the other Russian girls where she was struggling sometimes against other Russian girls. And now, you know, she's doing her thing on the court. You know, she fights unbelievably well, and she doesn't miss. Especially the girls like her, Myskina, they hardly miss a ball, and they fight until it's over. It's going to be a tough match, but it's definitely one that I look forward to.

Q. Have you had any contact at all with Justine during both your times off?


Q. Not at all?


Q. Have you had moments on the court where you feel like you've got it all back and it's there, even if it doesn't last?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, definitely. I feel like there's always a few good rallies in one of my matches - I hope. But, no, I definitely feel like there's some good tennis out there, but it's maybe not consistent enough. I'm hitting the ball well in practice. I think just, you know, that's something that you get by match rhythm and by playing matches. You know, but I feel like, you know, there's patches of really good tennis in my game at the moment, but also a few patches where, you know, I can still work on. It's just a matter of making sure that I'm consistent.

Q. Do you feel you have enough right now to win this tournament?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't think that way. I just take it match at a time. I definitely don't think that way. Each match is tough and each match is different. You know, the next thing that I have on my mind is Dementieva. So I'm definitely not thinking about winning the tournament, not at all, especially not in the situation I'm in now. I'm not thinking about that at all.

Q. Did you lose your rhythm a bit in the second set?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. I guess so. I think it's just a combination of everything, I think, rhythm, concentration. You know, just a little bit of both, I guess. On the other hand, I think Conchita, you know, started to, yeah, play a little bit better as well. It was not just the rhythm. I think it was a combination of a few things, I think.

Q. Since you haven't spoken to Justine, I won't ask you what her feelings are about not playing Fed Cup but how about you?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I enjoy playing Fed Cup, but at this stage for me, I don't want -- you know, I don't want to have that extra week in my schedule yet. You know, I don't know how long I'm going to not play Fed Cup, but I have to see how it goes. You know, after this trip, I'm going to go back and have an MRI every four weeks, I need an MRI. I'll see how it goes. But, yeah, I don't want to get pushed. Last year when it happened here, I was maybe worried a little bit too much about the country and about trying to stay in that World Group. So I definitely wasn't ready to play there yet, but I did. You know, I don't regret it, but I'm a little bit more -- I'm trying to think a little bit more selfish.

Q. Understanding all that, can you see from a fan's perspective how exciting it might be if you and Justine would play Lindsay and Serena?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, of course.

Q. And without you two, it's going to be Serena and Lindsay against two players who probably...

KIM CLIJSTERS: But that's now. I don't think it happens every time that Venus or Serena are playing a Fed Cup for America. So that happens in sports. Yeah, you know, if they wouldn't have been playing, you know, nobody would have cared that we weren't playing, I guess. So, yeah, I mean, that's just a part of it all, I guess.

Q. Did you expect to be struggling more coming back?

KIM CLIJSTERS: That question has been asked to me like so many times over these last few weeks. Yes, I did expect it to be -- I didn't expect to be playing or to be seeing the ball as well as I have been over these last few -- over the last two tournaments that I've played. But that's why I'm, you know, trying -- because, you know, you're always going to have a moment, you know, where you're going to fall back a little bit, I guess. I'm just taking it easy, not trying to be all too happy about the way I'm playing, and try to focus, you know, trying to do my job on the court and off the court, what I have to do to recover well. Yeah, but I'm really happy with the way I'm playing. It's not that I'm trying to, you know, tell everybody or something.

Q. Hasn't it surprised you a little that you haven't lost any confidence, at least it seems you haven't lost any confidence at all?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I think what definitely helped me was playing again in Belgium, you know, playing my first match again in Belgium. I think the support that I had there, that motivated me so much. I didn't sort of have a chance not to play well. You know, it was great. I just wasn't enjoying it so much out there. You know, people were talking about there's so much pressure. There's like 12,000 people in the stands. They're all wondering, "How is she going to play? How is she going to hit that backhand?" But that did not bother me at all. You know, I was really happy to be out there and trying to show the crowd that, you know, I'm happy to be back. I think that definitely helped me to play again in Belgium, to start the year off like that.

End of FastScripts….

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