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March 15, 2005

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kim, please.

Q. You played really well. Talk about that. The score doesn't show how tough she was playing you at times.

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I think she's a girl, you know, who can put you under a lot of pressure, I think. If you let her dictate the points, I think she can play really well. You know, I saw that against Amelie, as well. She was really stepping into the court and she was the one who was always dominating all the time. She didn't really miss. I think today I just had to make sure that I mixed my game up a little bit, not hit with her all the time, just mix it up, hit a few slices, a few dropshots. I think I did that pretty well today.

Q. Any part of how you're playing right now surprise you considering your layoff?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, overall, when I started in Antwerp, even there I started playing really well. I definitely did not expect that because when I had my first time off just before Hasselt, I was struggling a lot more than I am now. I don't know if it's because, you know, people sort of said after Hasselt, you might never play again. I just not worried about how I'm playing, maybe that's got something to do with it. But I am, I am feeling good, I am enjoying it on the court. You know, it's always a challenge to play in the last few rounds, definitely. I'm playing these young girls, you know, that I've never seen play before. You know, I think for me it's fun as well to have that little bit of a surprise out there.

Q. Did you know much about Linetskaya before?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, not that much. Especially not because I've been off for a while. I watched her play against Mauresmo, and that's probably the only match that I've seen her play.

Q. When you watch a young player, can you pick her as a Top 10, 20 or 30 player in the future?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I cannot.

Q. An article came out on ESPN today that Serena Williams is still upset about the incident here in 2001. I wouldn't ask you to comment on that directly. Being a top women's player, is there not some sort of preconceived understanding in front of thousands of people that booing and cheering comes with the job. Have you had a situation where you've been overtly affected by emotions and crowd?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I was a part of that when it happened with Serena here last year, and Venus. You know, I think -- at the time I was really young, as well. I thought, you know, it was hard. It was a new experience for me, as well. But the only situation -- the only other situation that I've been in is when I've played at home when the crowd just goes completely crazy for me, and that's incredible. I've never been in a situation where I've had the crowd against me, unless maybe Fed Cup matches. But I'm sure it's not easy, and especially not because -- when you don't expect it, I guess.

Q. You obviously were in the middle of a critical final. In your gut, do you feel it was too harsh a reaction?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I think so. I definitely felt that out there on the court.

Q. In what way?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Just for her.

Q. Was it too harsh a reaction?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. I mean, at the time I felt like it was, yeah.

Q. In what way? What was going through your mind at the time?

KIM CLIJSTERS: In what way? I think there's only one way. I think it was just hard on them, yeah.

Q. Do you ever talk to her about it?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, actually, no. I think they just got out of here very quickly.

Q. What is your level right now?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. Do I have to give myself points again (smiling)? No, I feel like I'm improving every match. Yeah, no, I feel comfortable out there. You know, it's hard to sort of compare all the matches because I've played, you know, a few different type of players as well. But I definitely feel like I'm, you know, hitting the ball well and I'm seeing the ball clean. And I think that's good. You know, I've got a good feeling out there, and that's what I need to have, I think, to play well.

Q. Is the real test when you're in a tight situation?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, definitely, yeah.

Q. Do you have a full schedule or are you taking it easier?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I'm not really thinking about, you know, planning like four or five tournaments in a row. I know that that's going to be tough. Especially in the first few months coming up, you know, I'm playing here, then in Miami, then I'm going home to prepare for the clay court season because I think that's, you know, probably the surface where my wrist is going to be under a lot of pressure. And I want to take my time to prepare it and take it easy and not just -- like work my way into and play a few tournaments, than rush my way into trying to play a lot of spin, just putting too much stress on that wrist. I don't want to go through that, so I'm going to take my time to sort of progress eventually, I think.

Q. Have you thought about playing Kremlin Cup in October?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. You know, I'm --

Q. Too far in advance?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Definitely. There's a good chance I might if I'm feeling well. But at this moment, I'm not thinking that far ahead at all.

Q. When is a good time to decide on that?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I've got no idea. Gee, you're asking me tough questions.

Q. Today on some important points, you're going for your shots, playing pretty close to the lines, making them. Before your injury, there were some times in big matches when you weren't going for your shots as much. During your time off, before you were told you might not play again, did you tell yourself the next time you get into these big matches you have to play your game?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I think at that time when I was practicing and there was just so much aggression, I was just standing on the line going bang, bang, bang (smiling). No, for a while, you know, three, four months, even longer, I was only hitting forehands. I was doing a lot of forehand cross. I think that helped. It helped me a lot to stay on my baseline. Even when I have like long rallies in the forehand cross-court, I know I have to stand on my line and stay aggressive. I know in the future I was maybe a little bit too defensive in some situations. But, yeah, I'm feeling like I'm hitting the ball well when I'm under pressure. You know, that's a good feeling to have. You know, a couple of people have actually said that to me after I played in Antwerp. I don't know if you guys remember Carl, my previous coach, but he was doing commentary. He said how you could see the difference as well. That was nice to hear, yeah.

Q. What's the difference in playing in the desert on a hard surface versus playing on a hard surface in some other city that doesn't have the desert atmosphere?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I think, you know -- well, I can only sort of compare these two tournaments coming up, I think. Weather-wise, I think it makes a lot of difference. I think the balls here fly a little bit more because it's dry. And in Miami I think it's so humid that it's, you know, tougher. I feel like you have to work more for it. I think sort of the air I think helps to speed up the balls a little bit. But I enjoy it here. There's not many tournaments where you have -- when you're standing ready to return, have the mountains in front of you. You know, you have to sort of make sure that you're focusing on the ball, not just looking around at the beautiful view. But this is definitely one of -- I think if you ask all the players, one of everyone's favorite trips out there.

Q. Would you like to see everything possibly done to save the tournament?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Oh, for sure, yeah, definitely. I think, you know, like I said, this has always been one of my favorite -- one of my favorite tournaments. Yeah, when I heard that they might be -- you know, that they're struggling, that it might go away, I don't know. But, you know, it's tough. I was definitely very surprised because you don't have this many tournaments out there where they have the facilities like this, where everything is organized so well as it is here. Yeah, you know, it's tough to hear that, yeah.

Q. You just finished playing some young players. Now you play Conchita. Can you talk about playing Conchita, what you expect from her.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Sure. I think I played her here two years ago, the year that I won it. Or is it three years ago already?

Q. Three.

KIM CLIJSTERS: So, yeah, she's a player with so much confidence, with so much experience as well. I think she, you know, knows her game so well. You know, she mixes it up. I think that's where she can make it very tough on a lot of girls because a lot of the girls, especially now a lot of the Russian girls and the younger girls, you know, they all sort of hit the same pace. You know, they hit the ball, and they're very steady. They don't miss a lot of balls. But once they get, you know, a player in front of them who can mix it up and loop up a few balls and throw in some slices, you know, they struggle. And I think that is where Conchi is a very smart player. You know, I've had a few tough matches against her already, a few easy ones, but easy score ones. I think against her you always have to work and the rallies always take a little bit longer because she doesn't really give you a chance or she doesn't always give you a lot of rhythm, I guess.

Q. Are you surprised to see her still out there?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. Well, I think it must be -- you know she definitely has a game that bothers a lot of players. But, you know, I haven't seen her for a while over the last few months, and she looks fitter and I think more motivated than I've ever seen her in those years that I was playing. It's great to see that someone who has been through so much, who has had such a long career, is still willing to put so much effort into it.

Q. Last year there were five Russian players in the year-ending championship. There's a school of thought that says their breakthrough sort of coincided with yours and Justin's injury. Do you ever feel like responsible or guilty for letting them through? Did they ever thank you?


Q. What are your thoughts, pure coincidence?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, it's not a coincidence. Because you said, there are five of them. If it would have been one of them... You know, they've all proven that they can play tennis. Justine and I have had very tough matches against a lot of the girls while we were at our best, as well. We've had tough matches against Myskina, I had; Justine have had. Sharapova, she's probably one of the players, when I thought she was young, that she could be definitely top five, you know. Yeah, you know, yeah, I don't think it's a coincidence. That's the sport, and that's what happens in sport. You know, if some players get injured, new ones come into their spot. I think now, you know, being in my situation, that's definitely not something that I think about, but it's a challenge for me to try to get back, you know, where I was and try to, you know, be able to play against them and have good matches against them.

Q. Do you think they will do as well this year?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball. I know as much as you, I guess.

Q. You looked like you were having fun at the charity match the other night.

KIM CLIJSTERS: I loved it. I loved it.

Q. What was it like standing in the ball girl position on Andy Roddick's side when he was serving? You look like you tensed up.

KIM CLIJSTERS: You know, I was ready -- I was definitely focusing on his serve there because I never know if Marat just sort of lets it go, sort of seeing how good I can catch a ball. No, it was fun. It was a great night. Amazing to see how all the Top 10 guys were there, with Roger's input, incredible. It was fun to be a ball-girl for a tiebreak or so.

Q. You have a new appreciation for ball-boys?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I've always had that. I've always had that. It's not an easy job, especially not for -- a lot of players, they can get a little bit tensed or nervous, you know, when things are not going like they think it should. I definitely appreciate what they're doing, yeah.

Q. The best ball girls and boys in the world, of all the tournaments? US Open, Wimbledon?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I mean, the Grand Slams, they're like professionals. You know, they know what they're doing. They're very, very strict. Probably, yeah, the Grand Slams, I think they stand out a little bit there. I think at the US Open, they're -- you know, I actually got to know a few of the people as well at the US Open, a few of the ball guys and boy girls. I think they're older at the US Open. It's fun to see that sometimes.

End of FastScripts….

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