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September 8, 2009
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
K. CLIJSTERS/N. Li
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How do you feel about advancing through your quarterfinal match so easily?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Obviously I feel good about it. It's a nice feeling to have, knowing, you know, I was able to win it in two sets. Even in that second set I got a little bit closer, but I was just able to finish it off in straight sets.
Just I'm also -- you know, like I have a really good feeling the way I stayed focused after the Venus match. Like I didn't lose focus just by everything that was going on around me and so much more attention that happened. I think that's something that I learned from the past, that experience that I have when you beat big players not to get carried away and just refocus on a match like today.
For the quarterfinal it was a pretty good draw, but it was still a tough opponent to beat. So I knew that I had to play well, and I'm glad that I did, that I was able to do that.
Q. Obviously your biggest test might be coming up here. Your record against Serena was never great. I know you're playing well, but she's still at a high level.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Definitely, and especially here. I think she's always been able to step it up at the Grand Slams. And, you know, Serena, I mean, I've seen her play here, and she has that face where she's like, Okay, I'm here to do business.
But that doesn't mean that you don't get chances when you get to play her. So that's, I think, something that I'm going to be really focused on is obviously play aggressive tennis and dominate, you know, try to dominate a lot of points.
But then, still, I think the one who keeps the unforced errors down I think is going to get through here. She's obviously someone who plays with a lot of power, and, you know, is still a great mover. So the combination of those two things she really has going for her.
Like I said, it doesn't mean that you don't get a chance when you get to player her. That's something that I felt in the past, too. Every player always has a moment in a match where, whether it's either one or two games, where they just kind of lose that aggressiveness a little bit or just lose focus.
It's up to the other player to kind of feel that, and, you know, like step it up then at that time.
If they don't get that, you know, that's too good if that happens. But you really have to try to just step it up when you feel that things are really like twisting your way a little bit.
Q. When you see teenagers like Wozniacki and Oudin moving ahead in a tournament, can you look back and say what it's like to be a teenager in bigtime tennis? Are they unconscious at that age getting into a tournament?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. I mean, I think you don't -- it's all so new and great, you know, so you don't really worry too much about the pressure and the attention that's going on because it's all so new.
But, you know, we have Wickmayer who is kind of in the same situation here, as well. She's doing really good. And although, you know, I love watching Oudin play, Wozniacki, Wickmayer, it's so much fun for me to just watch on TV and see the emotions that come out of them when they win a match. I get so happy when I just see that.
But then again, I think, you know, I'm talking to like my coach and everyone, Wow, she's only 17. They were like, Yeah, but you were like that.
You don't think like that at the moment. You just -- everything just kind of happens. You don't really think about the age or anything. Unless like now that I'm older, I look back and I'm like, Wow, you know, they're young. You see that, the new face that's still on there. They enjoy everything so much in a different -- they look at things in a different way when they get to a Grand Slam, because it's so new.
That's something I think in the beginning is really good for them. But I think as they progress and they make a name on tour, I think that that will change. The pressure will gradually start to build in a little bit. But, you know, it's great what they're doing here. It's fun to watch for me, as well.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your coach and the significance of the positive reinforcement before, during, and after a match?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. I'm not -- I've never been the kind of player who looks over to my box that much during a match. I'm really just trying to focus on myself. Just once in a while, you know, when you get into it and you throw some fist pumps to your box and everything. But I think it's mostly everything that happens around it, you know, that's very important to me.
With my coach, someone I grew up when I was younger, practiced with a lot, so he knows me extremely well. I think that's a great feeling to have, that I'm able to share this kind of second career with him in this kind of situation.
Especially now that we're doing well, you know, it's just special, I think, for both of us that we can share this together.
Q. In a way, do you feel like one of those 17 years old now?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Maybe a little bit. Just the, Wow, like coming back and just, you know, seeing everybody again. That makes it all just so much more special.
But then on the other hand, I think I have the experience of being in situations like that. That doesn't mean that I have less nerves when I get to big points or, you know, big matches, but it does help, having, you know, having been there.
That's something that, yeah, again, it's just fun to watch, you know, those young girls and just to see like even Oudin how freely she plays at big points. It's just so much fun to see how she just goes for her shots every time.
Q. So in a way you have the best of everything now.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, maybe. We'll see.
Q. You talked about the young enthusiastic face of the 17 year olds. You also talked about the kind of tough face that Serena has when she's come here to play. Two questions: Do you think over the years your face, so to speak, has changed in tennis? And second of all, how would you describe Serena's face?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Um, I definitely think my face has definitely changed over the years. I think when I was 15, 16 coming on, I remember Wimbledon, when I did well there, you know, I really had to stop myself from like asking everybody for autographs in the locker room and everything.
I just remember just being so in awe with everything that was happening around me and then playing on the center court and everything. It just overwhelms you a little bit. You kind of just forget what you have to do out there to play good tennis.
So that has definitely changed. I still respect -- I still have an immense respect for all the Grand Slams and the history that's happened in each and every one of them, but you kind of -- it's easier now to push that aside when you're out there and just focus on your game and not be too worried or too, you know, impressed by everything that's happening around you, how big the stadium is, you know, media attention. Everything has an impact I think when you're younger. I definitely think my game, my face has definitely changed a little bit in that way.
And then I think Serena, you know, I remember playing against her here a few years ago or many, many years ago, let's say. I think it was 2000 or '99 even, so ten years ago - whew - where I was kind of in a similar situation as maybe Oudin or someone where you're up and you're playing those big matches.
But it was fun. It's just great. But that's where I first saw, you know, the type of players that, you know, the type of player that Serena is. She was missing a few more shots.
I was kind of just bringing a lot of balls back and she was kind of missing them. But then at 5-2 in the third set where I was up, she just, bang, started going for aces, started hitting winners. Like something switched in her head.
That's something great players can do, and she definitely has it. So I think she's still capable when she wants to step it up, but I think the consistency in other tournaments hasn't always been there.
But, you know, here, I mean, especially at the Grand Slams, they can really just step their game up. You just have to keep working and trying to get those chances out there.
Q. This early in your comeback, are you surprised to be sitting where you are? Or did you come into this figuring you could make a serious run at the title?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I mean, I never had that kind of mentality before the tournament knowing that I was going to get to a semifinal or final at the Grand Slams, obviously.
So I definitely didn't have that idea, you know, or that thought in my head now. But like I said before, something switched with me after Toronto where I felt like, Okay, I can, you know, compete with these girls. Because that was obviously a big question in my mind.
Although I was hitting the balls really good in practice and I felt physically I was doing well and everything, you still want to know what it's like to play against those girls and get a feel for how the level has changed, how girls are playing different tennis maybe these days.
That was something that I didn't know, either. So I am surprised that I'm sitting here talking to you right now, but I'm very happy, and, you know, flattered that I get to do that.
Q. You're enjoying this so much. I'm curious if you plan on having more children? If so, ideally when that might happen.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, we would love to have more children, but obviously that's not something that's going to happen any time soon.
But, again, we don't really have a time schedule on that. I just, you know, kind of see how everything goes and just go from there.
Q. What was the length of time that you actually put down your racquet, didn't pick it up and play again? When you did, what did that actually feel like to you, given that you have had one in your hands since you were a little kid?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I hit one time with Caroline Maze, a friend of mine who played on tour a little bit, I think three months after I gave birth. That was a big mistake, because I was just -- yeah, I mean, I was so frustrated after that.
Because in my mind I still knew how to step forward, step back, move to the side, but just the connection from the brain to the body wasn't really -- there was nothing there.
So that was kind of hard, and especially the movement, as well. Your body just feels so different. So to me, I had a good feeling when the ball was coming towards me, but just moving was absolutely terrible. I felt like an elephant sometimes just trying to move. Yeah, even two steps was terrible.
So then when I started at the start of this year, I kind of just had to mentally be prepared for that as well, knowing that a lot of tests in the fitness or in the gym that I used to do were going to be a lot, a lot, a lot worse.
So you kind of just try to forget about the numbers and just start from zero or even below zero and just step it up from there and just watch the progress and focus on the progress instead of thinking about, you know, how much worse it was than it used to be.
So I think that was the biggest mental issue I think that I had to really like push myself over is not to worry about, you know, not getting back into shape as fast as I wanted to or something.
That was obviously a new experience for me, as well, and just to see how much the body changes was incredible.
Q. Is it difficult to give the best of yourself but stop just at a physical limit and don't go after this limit?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Um, well, I mean, I believe that you shouldn't focus on stopping at your limit. I think you can always improve and improve, you know, where, in a match you don't have to reach that far.
I think that's why we train and that's why we have, you know, very intense workouts months before you get to a tournament is so that you can go out there and not worrying about, you know, I'm getting close to my limit. I have to slow down a little bit or anything.
So I think that's something that is mentally very important I think for any player, is knowing that, you know, I've worked out a lot harder in practice or in the gym or anything, so I know that I'm capable of doing it during a match, whether it's a three-set match or even for the men a five-set match.
So I think you really just have to trust yourself, I think, and have good people around you who can push you in obviously not a crazy way, obviously in a very professional way, and knowing that and gradually build it up.
I think that was something also for me very important now is slowly I had to progress. And, you know, although it was frustrating for me at times because I just wanted to just go like this, you know, it was kind of I had to just go slowly, upwards very slowly.
But it helps, and it helps now knowing when I'm out on the court, if it's a three-setter, I know I've done a lot tougher workouts in the gym. That's a good feeling to have, knowing that I'm not going to physically have any problems unless, you know, the emotions and the nerves and the stress obviously that you have in a match are not there when you're working out in the gym or anything.
Q. Obviously there is a lot of anticipation about Serena possibly facing you, but have you been watching Pennetta very much? What do you think about her game?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I have, especially in these last few weeks playing. You know, she's a good friend, and I was extremely happy for her when she reached a top 10 ranking. Probably I think it was after Cincinnati, she got to her first top 10 ranking. So that was really nice to just see that. She's always -- she's worked very hard and she's a fun girl, as well. She's improved her game.
I think when I played in Rosmalen and played an exhibition a few weeks ago and I was hitting with her on the grass a little bit, what I noticed in her game is that she's really become more aggressive. She used to be a player who never really missed a lot, but kind of rallied a lot of balls back.
Against the top players we always felt like her ball strokes were always at a nice kind of height where we could really step in and hit a lot of winners off it.
Now I think she's kind of worked out a game for her that, you know, she can still be that consistent and still bring a lot of balls back, but also take those few steps forward when she gets her short ball and go for winners. That's the biggest thing I noticed in Rosmalen. She's not shy anymore of getting -- stepping in and going for a few more winners.
Obviously that was the biggest change I saw in her game.
Q. In the second set you seemed to be struggling physically. Do you feel as physically fit as you did a few years ago?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Really?
Q. Do you feel as good as you did a few years ago?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Like I said, I even feel better physically. I've had a lot of time to work on my physical weaknesses in the past just because I had seven, eight months where I could really just focus on those things, and, you know, also because it was really necessary.
So I'm really, you know, out there, you know, enjoying every ball I can run to without worrying about anything being sore. It's a good feeling to have.
So no, I actually didn't feel like I was struggling too much out there physically.
End of FastScripts