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September 6, 2009

Kim Clijsters


K. CLIJSTERS/V. Williams
6-0, 0-6, 6-4


Q. I don't think people were surprised it went three sits, but the first two sets were...
KIM CLIJSTERS: Very weird.

Q. Can you wrap your mind around that?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I'm still just trying -- obviously, I can't speak for her. On my side I felt like we never were really playing our best tennis at the same time until the third set. We were both playing at a decent level.
In that first set, I really felt like I was dominating a lot of the points. I was serving well. I think that's where I kept her under pressure, kept her from what she's good at: stepping into the court, playing aggressive tennis. She also made a lot of mistakes, missed a lot of first serves.
From the beginning of the rallies, I felt like I could step in and really hit some aggressive returns and just keep her under pressure. Then I felt like in the second set, she was kind of doing that to me for a little bit.
So, you know, whether I lost that set, I just said to myself, Okay, forget about what happened this last hour. You start from zero, and just make sure that you stay aggressive, keep serving well, and it worked.

Q. At one point in your comeback, at the start of the comeback, did you have the belief you might do something like this?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Until the match was over (smiling).
No, I don't think about that. I just try to go as far as I can in each match. I just try to play good tennis. I just try to think, like I said just before, even when things aren't going as well as you want to in a match, you just try to focus on what you have to do out there. You're not really worried about results or anything. You're just really trying to fight through a match.
So, yeah, you know, it's still kind of hard to believe. But then again, I'm not trying to get carried away with it all. Just trying to focus on what I have to do, because the tournament's still going. I just want to keep focusing on my tennis without having to worry too much about what's going on around.

Q. You had some good wins in two tournaments leading up to this. How much of a mental hurdle is it beating Venus at this particular slam?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I think what helped me a lot was, although I lost to Jankovic, it really helped me a lot knowing that I was capable of taking her to a 5-3 in that third set. That's where after Toronto I felt like, Okay, I feel at this moment I can compete with those best players.
Obviously, at that point I hadn't played one of the Williamses or Sharapova or anybody. But I still had a good feeling that I can have a chance against these girls. That's something that I didn't have obviously before I went to Cincinnati.
It was just a really good feeling to have. Although I lost after Toronto, I kind of got that click where, Okay, I feel there's still a lot of improvement to focus on and to work on. But I feel I'm at a point where, if I play good and if I stay consistent, I can make it tough for the other girls.

Q. Did that come in your mind at 15-40 when you were serving for it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I'm not even going to tell you what was going on in my mind. Yeah, I was shaking. My arm felt like 50 pounds or more. But I just told myself, Look, don't give it away like that. Just try to play aggressive tennis and let her come up with a good shot to win it.
I was glad to hit some good serves and some aggressive forehands as well there.

Q. Would it be a stretch to say that you're playing as well as you ever have?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, in this match definitely not. I would say it was very up and down. But there were parts, stages in the match where, yeah, I felt I was hitting the ball really well.
Again, it's the consistency that was something that I could do really well in the past, and it's still something that I need to work on. Just maintain that level throughout a whole match.
That's something that will take time by playing more and more matches, playing more tournaments. But, yeah, so I'm glad I get that opportunity to play an extra match here.

Q. What about your mental game? You used to tighten up in big moments years ago. Do you think given your different life experience now...
KIM CLIJSTERS: Look, I tightened up today, too. I was just glad that I was able to finish it off. Kind of, yeah, just block it out a little bit. You know, yeah, I mean, as you get older and you have more experience, maybe that helps.
But, I mean, I felt really nervous out there today. It was kind of the first time I was in a big stadium like that, in a situation like that again, so I think it's pretty normal that you just go through those emotions all over.
But, yeah, like I said, I handled it well. I was glad to not let it go to 5-All and start all over in that third set.

Q. A few years ago you might not have cried tears of joy because you got into the second week of a Grand Slam. What were the tears about today?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't think it was really to get into the second week of a Grand Slam. Like I said, I think it was the emotions of that last game especially and the crowd and everything. I think, yeah, it just all built up, and it just came out as soon as it was over, after that ace. Yeah, it just felt so good. Just looking at -- whoever was in the box, just seeing my friends and my family and coach and everybody, was just very special.
You know, because they know what I've been through these last few years. It's just very nice to have them there on the sideline cheering for me. To have them enjoy these wins with me just makes it even more special.

Q. Can you talk about how the fans have embraced you since you've come back? Was there any concern when you were gone, would anybody care, would you make an impact?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I mean, it's not that I came back because I wanted to be embraced by the crowd. I came back because I wanted to play tennis, and good tennis. You know, I think there's been a lot more attention on me than probably in the last few years. But, like I said, I try to do everything very professionally.
But it's very special. I mean, when you come out there, even if I'm playing on center court or Armstrong Stadium, it's so special. Yeah, just even walking around the city and stuff, I don't know if it's because I'm married to an American now, maybe that has something to do with it, but it's very special.
You know, especially when I've been away from home for a few months now already, just nice when you come out on court and you have the people, you know, close to the sidelines screaming for you and yelling for you. It's a nice feeling to have.

Q. Do you think your family life has given a new balance to your tennis game?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. I mean, you have to balance it. You have to try to balance it. Yeah, it definitely has made me a more, yeah, completer person, I would say. I think I'm not going to sit here and -- I'm not going to lie and say it hasn't changed my life.
Obviously, it's a big change, but for the good. We're extremely happy having our daughter here with us and my husband and everything. It's a big change to what I was used to in the past, but it's something that for me personally - I'm not talking for anybody else - but for me personally, I love that comfort of seeing my husband and know that Jada is around in the box.

Q. How has your traveling changed with having a child?
KIM CLIJSTERS: That's a little bit tougher.

Q. What kind of things do you have to pack and do?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Obviously there's a few more toys in the suitcase that we take onboard just to keep her entertained.

Q. Do you do anything in the city?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, we did. We went on one of those -- is it called carriage rides in Central Park? She got to hold the reins, just little things like that. She loves it. She loves a lot of animals, so we have five dogs at home. Kind of just to see her, you know, with other animals and stuff, it's a lot of fun. We try to go to the zoo a couple of times here. We went to the zoo in Central Park.
Yeah, we just try to take her out for walks. Here as well she gets to play with other kids here on-site in the family room. That's fun as well. It's an adult world, and you don't want her to just be around adults. That's why it's nice here that she can play with some kids her age as well.

Q. Understanding you wanted to have a baby, but how much were you hurting physically when you decided to leave for a couple years?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think it was a combination both of physically and mentally that was kind of just a little bit tired of it. I had other things in my mind that I wanted to achieve as a woman and as a person. That made me not be so disciplined anymore in my tennis career.
When you don't do everything for your tennis, especially with the tennis that I play, I think I've always been told, I've always known that I have to work a lot on everything that goes around, that's outside the tennis, the practices and everything, working on my shoulder, back, knees, hips, everything.
That was something that I kind of just pushed aside just towards the end because, yeah, I was just tired of -- mentally tired of going through that for so many years. You know, that's when you need to make a choice.
You know, yeah, so I'm glad I made that choice 'cause a lot of beautiful things came out of it.

Q. Do you ever wish you hadn't used the word 'retire' now that you're back?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. No, not at all.

Q. Genuine, sincere at the time?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Oh, yes. Until this year, I didn't think that I was -- until I started practicing for that exhibition at Wimbledon, I never thought that I was going to be back. Never, ever did I doubt it or did I think about it even.

Q. If somebody told you before this run what you would accomplish, what would you have said?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I just would have laughed and not said anything, I think. Because you never know what can happen. I think, yeah, when you play, you want to win.
Whether I'm out there not playing well, you always want to win. And that's why I think, you know, my mental game hasn't changed. That's still the same to what it used to be. When you're out there, you want to win every point.
But I don't know what I would have said, yeah.

Q. How does the desire to win now compare with before your retirement?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Uhm, I don't think it's that much different. You know, in the past I wanted to win a lot. Sometimes maybe too much even. Maybe now, you know, I know that everything that I'm doing for my tennis is with full focus and I'm taking my time to work on the weaknesses that I still have to work on and everything.
But I think a part of that there's also that other life that I have that keeps me away from tennis; whereas in the past, it was 24/7 tennis. It's nice now to have that change. When I go home after I've been training here during a day off, it doesn't matter to our daughter or my husband whether I won the day before or not. It doesn't matter to them. That's a nice feeling to have, is knowing, Okay, I'm mommy, and she doesn't care too much about anything else.

Q. You needed to measure yourself against some of the bigger names in tennis. Today you defeated Venus. How does this affect your confidence?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, you know, I know today that Venus wasn't playing her best tennis. In that sense it's hard to kind of compare anything in today's match. But there's a lot of other things personally that I'm taking out of this match. That's just the mental strength that I kept focusing on and just trying to -- although in that second set I wasn't hitting the ball, I was just trying to regroup.
Those kinds of things. Reading the game a little bit, adjusting my game a little bit to a couple of weaknesses that I had out there. That's a very positive thing for myself, where in the past I maybe could have just let it slip away a little bit.
Now I really felt comfortable at just getting back and just fighting through that match.

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