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May 17, 2006

Kim Clijsters


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. First of all, I came here to congratulate you because we have a big champion in Rome. Many are not here. What do you think about the fact that many are not here? Everybody is injured or so and so.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I'm not really sure what the reasons were, you know, for those players to pull out. But, you know, I'm sure now, I mean, there has to be a real good reason because we're so close to a Grand Slam. Obviously, players, you know, they want to play some matches now.
I think for the tournament and for the public, on one side, it's sad to see because, you know, the more good matches, the more good players in the draw that you have is, you know, the better. But there are still a lot of good players out there, you know, some Italians. That's what is, you know -- that's what draws a lot of people as well. Francesca, I know she's playing well. She draws a lot of people, too. There's a lot of Russian girls still in the draw, which, you know, play really good tennis and, like, fun tennis to see.
So, you know, like I said, I mean, I don't really know what the injuries are, but I'm sure they have good reason because this is not the time to say, "Oh, I'm going to take a week off because," you know, "there's a small tournament coming up in two weeks," no.
Q. When I saw you losing the first set, I was afraid that you had some problems, too. Do you have some problems?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, just I felt a little bit flat out there in the beginning. Like I said, it's been a while since I've played here. Those are all little things that you have to adjust a little bit, yourself. The last tournament I played on was in Warsaw. The clay, you know, it's the same surface, but it was completely different. Your mindset has to, you know -- you have to change that a little bit, and your movement, you have to adjust that a little bit. That's, you know -- I mean, it takes a little bit of time, especially in a match, to get used to that and to get that feeling back.
Overall, I mean, you know, I feel pretty good. Just some sneezing and some throat and a cough, but that's fine.
I mean, the second and third set, you know, I did what I had to do. I was moving a little bit better and I was going for the right shots, you know. I mean, I still made some mistakes which, you know, shouldn't be there, but it's a work in progress, you know. You always keep working, and hopefully next match will be better.
Q. One gets worried also about you because you said, I think one year ago, that you are going probably to end your career pretty soon because you think your body cannot do the effort.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, yeah.
Q. Then it's true? I mean, you want really to stop playing at the end of next year?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, it's true. It is. It's something that I started, you know -- I started thinking about it when I had my wrist surgery. There I was like -- I felt like, you know, when they told me like, "This might be the end of your career," there I felt like, "No, I want to try still." Because I felt like I didn't have enough yet. I felt after that injury, if I could get back from this, then my game was still the same.
But from then on, you know, I was playing well. I started well, I had a really good year. But then I had -- in the clay court season, I had knee problems, I had hip problems. That's why I pulled out of here last year, because I wasn't fit to play and to practice the amount of hours that I need to play good tennis. And if you can't put the hours in and if you can't put the work in that you know you need to play well, then it's very frustrating to be out there.
You know, I can go to tournaments and not feel a hundred percent, but then I'm just, you know, fooling myself, you know. I'm just -- I want to play the tennis that I play, you know, when I play my best. I don't want to be restricted with anything. That's, you know, something that has been tough, because I think the level that we play these days is, you know, very physical. It's very physical. And, you know, it's not the same type of tennis that they played even 10 years ago. It's a lot more powerful, a lot more demanding, I think, on the body. I don't think it has anything to do with taking, you know, too busy schedule. I think it's just, you know, the type of game that we play these days is very, very, you know, very tough on the body.
Q. So you still have in your mind to stop at the end of next year?
Q. Or you will maybe --
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. No, no.
Q. For sure?
KIM CLIJSTERS: That's the end. Hopefully, you know -- every week now, like I work hard to stay fit because I know that I need it. Like I still do my wrist exercises, you know. I do strength, you know, for my hip. I have to do exercises for my back. Because if I don't do them, then, yeah, you can carry me in the ambulance, I think (smiling).
And those things, I mean, you know, I'm young, I'm only 23 - almost 23 - and I shouldn't have to feel like that yet, you know?
Q. That's true.
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't want to be, you know -- if I have kids one day, I don't want to be there and like, "Sorry, Mommy's too old," you know, "I can't go play with you." You have to think a little bit about the future, too. It's not just the life right now. I mean, I think you also have to think a little bit further.
Q. About the future, you know that if you will win the tournament you will be back to No. 1?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Really, that's the least of my worries right now. I mean, I've never been a player who has been focused on numbers or rankings. It's nice. I mean, when it happened, when I first became No. 1, it was great. Like it's an honor, you know, to be doing something that I love and to be No. 1 at the time.
But, personally, it doesn't change. You know, you still have to work, you still have to do everything every day the same to play good tennis, and that's what I try to do when I practice, when I play, is, you know, I want to get the best out of myself.
And if you do that and if you can have fun, you know, with it, then I think the results come automatically.
Q. It doesn't give you more, like, satisfaction or confidence in yourself toward the French Open to be there, like, No. 1?
KIM CLIJSTERS: But it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean because you're No. 1, okay, "Let's just put her in." If they would tell me, "Okay, we'll put you in the final without having to play," I'd say, "Yeah, yes, I'm happy."
But now, you know, I start my first round like all the other 127 players. That's how I start my tournament, too. And it doesn't mean anything. I mean, there's so many other top players that, you know, are out there and who want to win. Everybody wants to win, you know, the matches that they play.
That's why I think the No. 1, again, it's great to be up there and to, you know, go to a tournament as the No. 1 player in the world, but I think that's more something for the outside world. As a player and as an individual, I think you just focus on what you have to do, and that's your tennis.
I mean, I'm not standing out on the court thinking, "I'm No. 1." I'm thinking, "What do I have to do to beat my opponent?"
Q. Well, I do agree partially because it's true what you said. But it's also true that when you're No. 1, at least you don't have to play No. 2 before the final eventually.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, but --
Q. And No. 4 and No. 5, you don't get them before the semifinal.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Exactly, but --
Q. It's better position in the draw normally than to be No. 4 or 5 where you never know.
KIM CLIJSTERS: But, look --
Q. Still, you have to win, yeah.
KIM CLIJSTERS: If you want to win a Grand Slam, you have to beat them any time. So, you know, even if No. 1, No. 2, it's the same thing, you know.
Q. No, the question, sorry, wasn't this. The question was, yeah, let's say that instead of next year, you finish your career now, and you have already your family. You are talking to your children. What is the first thing you say to them, "I was No. 1"? You say, "I won US Open"? What is the first thing that you say about tennis?
KIM CLIJSTERS: About tennis, oh, nothing.
Q. You say, "I was engaged --
KIM CLIJSTERS: See, tennis, that's where -- tennis has been such a big part of my life, but it's never been the most important thing in my life.
Q. Okay. But about tennis?
Q. What would be the first thing about tennis that you would say to your son?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I'll say, "Mommy was a tennis player." That's what I'll say. No, I'm serious. I'm not like that. I'm not --
JOHN DOLAN: You don't know her very well, Ubaldo.
Q. I'm just trying to understand.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, no problem. But I'm not like that. When I go home, I forget about all this. I forget about results. I forget about trophies. I don't need all that. It's not important to me. It's nice because I've worked for it and this is my life when I'm traveling, but --
Q. But every kid would like to be proud of his mother. He's a small kid.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, sure, if they ask me, I'll answer.
Q. If they say, "What have you done in your life when you were a tennis player?"
KIM CLIJSTERS: Exactly, exactly. When they ask me --
Q. Yes, what would you say?
KIM CLIJSTERS: If they ask me, but I'm not going to say, "Oh, your mom is No. 1."
Q. Okay, okay, okay. So the kid comes to you and says, "Mommy, what did you do? What were you more proud when you were a tennis player," what would you answer to him or to her?
KIM CLIJSTERS: You know what I would say?
Q. Yes?
KIM CLIJSTERS: That I had fun during my career. That's what I would say. That's what.
Q. Everybody already ask you about this, but what do you think about Martina Hingis' comeback, and how do you see this perspective in your life, to come back again one day if you really stop in two years? Did you ever think to this when you saw Martina Hingis coming back?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. I think the way she's come back, I think, is unbelievable. She looks so -- you know, first of all, I think she's a lot fitter than she was, you know, when she was playing and when she was at the top. That's something that I think she knew she had to work on because, like I said before, the game has improved so much and she knew that that was a part in her game where she, you know, really had to work on. I think it's great to see.
I mean, I see her in the locker rooms. I see her in the hotel. She looks so focused. It's great to see that, that somebody who's had everything in her career still is, you know, that hungry to play tennis.
First of all, like it's great to see that her foot is better, first of all; that she doesn't have any problems with that anymore and that she can play and that she enjoys playing again. I think that's important, too.
So I think it's amazing to see. I've always admired her. I think she's the player who hits the cleanest on the tour. There's nobody who hits the ball as clean as her, there's nobody who anticipates as good as her on the tour.
But, you know, there's a few things. I mean, the power that we play with these -- that I think Venus and Serena, where they took over for Martina was the power and the fitness, I think.
But she still is, I think, the most talented player on the tour.
Q. As you are.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, thank you, but no comparison to Martina, though (smiling).

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