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March 11, 2005

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kim.

Q. Playing well, Kim, huh?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. You know, it's not perfect, but good enough to get through in straight sets. No, I'm happy. I think my first serve percentage in the first set was very low. Just sort of keep like working on that a little bit and I think it will come automatically once I'm, you know, used to like the weather. In my first match, like the court was full of the shadow. Today it was a bit tougher with the sun. Yeah, it's all right. Second set was better.

Q. Did you expect your form to be this good so early?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. Well, they were asking me all those questions in Antwerp, as well. I started playing really well from the first match on. No, I don't. Especially here I thought it was going to be tougher even because I'm playing outside, as always. I've always traveled from going indoors to outdoors, even when I was playing at my best. Now, you know, I'm feeling well. I think it was good to -- a good decision to come here a week early to train outdoors.

Q. Is it possible that your layoff, that you have been refreshed by your layoff and you're better than ever?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I hope I'm refreshed. I've had enough time off to be refreshed. But, no, you're more into it I think because you've been out of it for so long, and once you start playing again, you want to, you know, play as good as you can, and you're enjoying it even more than I was. When you're playing week in, week out, sometimes the traveling and everything can get a little bit tough sometimes. But now, you know, this is my first tournament overseas in almost a year. So, you know, of course I'm looking forward to it. Yeah, I really enjoy it. Especially I've always enjoyed playing here in LA. It was nice to start here.

Q. Over the course of the matches that you've played, do you feel things are getting a little bit better each time or are you kind of sorting out one area of your game and then something else appears that you have to work on?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, no, there's still a combination of a few things that you need -- that I'll always have to work on. Just, you know, like I said with that first serve percentage, I have to make sure that I keep focusing on that because I think that's something that against the top players, you know, I might not do it because you know you have to serve well. Maybe today was like, you know, she's not going to hit winners or something. But, yeah, no, you always have to keep working hard, make sure that I keep the pressure on, that I stay aggressive. Especially in matches like this, you know, you don't want to let players get back into matches when you're leading.

Q. But you can feel a progression?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, yeah. No, I feel like I'm hitting well, and I feel like I'm, you know, maybe a little bit more under control when I'm out on the court than maybe before I got injured.

Q. Is that the longest break you've ever had?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, yeah.

Q. In competitive tennis since you started playing?


Q. What did you learn about yourself in that time off?

KIM CLIJSTERS: There were so many things. There's a few things that I don't really want to get into. But the main thing that I learned was how much I love tennis when you don't have it. You know, in 2003, I was traveling so much, I was hardly ever at home. The main thing was that. That was a good sign for me, that I miss it when I didn't have it. That was a very -- you know, that made it, you know, easy for me to know that, you know, I still want to do this for a few more years.

Q. What were some of the difficult things that you learned?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't want to go into that, no. I spoke about it yesterday. I think that's enough.

Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you say you are at the moment? Have you set yourself certain stages or targets through the year to get yourself back to your best?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, if I have to put like a number on it, I would say maybe today a 6 and a half, 7, yeah, over all. But, yeah, of course, you know, I haven't really set goals. I think, you know, I'm so happy to be back and happy to be playing matches. I just want to hopefully, you know, just try to play as good as I can in every match that I play. And I'm not -- you know, I've never really set a lot of goals. But even now, you know, I'm not going to set goals and think, you know, at the end of the year I want to be there or there. You know, the main thing now is that my wrist stays well and that I keep doing everything right, you know, to cool it down after matches and everything. That's my main concern at the moment.

Q. Speaking of your wrist, have you changed the techniques on your backhand just a little bit?

KIM CLIJSTERS: A little. I had to because I was making, you know, a bigger loop before. When I started, my first few backhands, I started hitting on I think the 4th of January it was, you know, I had to go back straight, like straight back, without making the loop. You know, you start without a ball. I could feel like it pinches whenever I did the loop. So I had to change it a little bit. I don't think a lot of people will notice, but I can definitely -- I've been working on it.

Q. You seem like you're sweeping your backhand maybe a little more than you used to.


Q. Holding the ball on the racquet a little bit longer.

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, maybe. Because I think maybe with the bigger loop, you know, it was a quicker motion. I think now maybe I just have to go into it, follow the ball a little bit longer with the racquet.

Q. Today I noticed you hit quite a few one-handed backhand slices.


Q. Is that something you've added to your repertoire?

KIM CLIJSTERS: You know, it helps sometimes, especially against a player like today. I think they're very consistent. Even if you keep hitting the ball, you know, the same pace all the time, you just hit it into their racquet. I think sometimes against a player like today, hit a higher ball or mix it up with some slices. It can always help to sort of keep them on their back foot. So, yeah, I think it was good to mix it up a little bit today.

Q. During your time off, how many forehands do you think you hit?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I have no idea (smiling).

Q. Before you got the injury, it was always a very powerful shot, but not as consistent as your backhand. When you come back now, you must have worked on it a lot.


Q. Is it more consistent?

KIM CLIJSTERS: A lot of people in Antwerp actually commented about it, they said how well my forehand -- how it's improved. So that was nice to hear. I definitely hit a -- I've hit a lot of forehands (smiling). For a while, I was just getting so sick of them, as well, because I just couldn't do anything else. But, yeah, no, I definitely worked a lot on the forehand, yeah.

Q. And serving, when you could start tossing the ball again, is that another stroke?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, definitely.

Q. How much better do you think that was?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, today my first set, it wasn't great. I feel more comfortable. I know when, you know, I'm serving, and I feel like, you know, I can feel more when I'm doing something wrong now, I can feel it myself. And I think that's a good thing to know, is knowing, mixing it up. I've just been working on some, you know, kick serves, to improve my second serve as well. I think that was, you know, a good thing. You know, you don't have to be scared from your serve. You know, just hit a good second serve, or have a good positive as well.

Q. Are you feeling any kind of pinching now when you hit the ball, any sensation at all, discomfort, or just nothing?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. I'm not as -- because when they shaved off the bone, I'm not as flexible as what I used to be. So they've restricted the tendon a little bit. So my movement can't go all -- I'm not rotating as far as I could. And at the beginning, that was an adjustment because also one of the reasons why I had to change the backhand, because I couldn't do that loop, I couldn't get that far any more. But, no, at the beginning it was strange because, you know, you're trying to get the pace and you can't because it's stopping. But, yeah, now I'm fine.

Q. What about at night when you're resting? Do you feel it?


Q. Do you take any anti-inflammatory drugs like Vioxx?

KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I've never taken any of those things anyway.

Q. Last year were you happy with the medical advice you got from doctors, because you came back and played Fed Cup?


Q. Or was it you pushing yourself to come back?

KIM CLIJSTERS: There's just one thing I regret, and that was playing in Hasselt, just because I didn't know. While I was training in America, I was practicing. I went there with Lleyton, and I was practicing a lot outdoors, at the US Open and stuff, you know, just trying to get back, for like six weeks. But I was always feeling something at the time. I didn't know if it was just surgery pains or if there was still something wrong. And as soon as I got back home, I had an MRI. You know, that doctor that I was seeing at the moment said, "It's fine, you can go and play Hasselt. " And I always had a feeling, you know, "Gee, like it doesn't feel a hundred percent." Yeah, afterwards, after Hasselt, I got some other opinions from some other doctors, and they said, you know, they would have never let me start it. They saw the MRIs just before Hasselt, and they said, "There's no way we would have let you started."

Q. You did go to I'm not going to say a bad doctor, but a doctor who gave you advice, and that was it?


Q. And how many doctors during your break told you that you might not play again?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Many. It's always, you know, with all of them, it's been an option. You know, they always said, "You know, you have to keep in the back of your head, you have to know that it could be possible that you might never play again." They've all probably said that a little bit.

Q. So was it two or three?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. Well, three, four. You know, they didn't say, "You have to stop playing tennis." But they said, "You know, you might never get to where you want to be," sort of. And that was tough to hear, but you don't really accept that at the time.

Q. Do you feel like with your new backswing on the backhand, that the shot is not as effective as it used to be?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I mean, I don't know -- do you notice a difference?

Q. Hard to say.

KIM CLIJSTERS: It's just -- yeah.

Q. But you notice a difference?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't notice it any more. But I had to. But I don't feel like it's -- you know, when I was playing Nadia in Antwerp, we were having the longest backhand cross rallies that I ever hit. Everyone is sort of hitting into my backhand, and it was fine. So, yeah, no, I was very, very happy with it, and I've been practicing. You know, sometimes players change a little bit their serve, so I think it's been a good change, as well.

Q. When you first got to this site this time, was it Saturday, Sunday, to practice?

KIM CLIJSTERS: Wednesday, last week.

Q. Last Wednesday. So the first time you walked on the court, did memories of winning the tournament in 2003 come up or was it memories of injuring the wrist for the first time?

KIM CLIJSTERS: I have no idea actually. I was happy to see the sun, I guess (smiling). No, I have no idea. I have no idea. You know, there's a mix of feelings here. You know, I've got so many -- like I said, I love playing in LA all the time. I've got in California so many great memories here. You know, last year, a bad thing happened here. But I've got more good memories than bad memories here, so... As long as it stays that way, it's okay.

End of FastScripts….

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