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March 15, 2010

Kim Clijsters


A. KLEYBANOVA/K. Clijsters
6-4, 1-6, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. 4-0 in the tiebreak, how did it get away? Or did she pick it up?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I definitely think I let it get is way. Credit to her. She played some really good points to get back into it. I think a lot of times I felt like the better I started moving her around, the more she -- she's really good on the run and she really gets those angles where she kept me under pressure.
I tried to come in a couple times. A few times it worked. You know, another few really important points she came up with good passing shot or she hit a really good backhand down the line. I think that's where I maybe took my foot off the acceleration a little bit.
What got me to be ahead was I was playing aggressive tennis and being dominant. I think she, by putting me under pressure during those long rallies, I think that, yeah, I kind of just backed off a little bit.
I think that was definitely the wrong thing to do.

Q. It is early to make this assessment, but do you think maybe you're not playing enough tournaments at this point? Is that maybe something to do with the schedule or...
KIM CLIJSTERS: I feel really happy with the way that I've been improving since the Australian Open. I think that was my biggest concern. I lost; it was a good match; it was close.
But like I said before, a few points here and there were the difference today. You know, it's something that you learn from this, but I need to be able to just, you know, when I'm up, just like, you know, stay up, stay aggressive, keep doing my thing, keep doing what got me to be ahead in that match.
I think it's something I did wrong today, was backing off a little bit. Whether that has anything to do with playing more matches or not enough matches, I don't think so, because I felt comfortable out there, you know, most of the time.
It's just when -- I think it was just a little bit more of a, yeah, became a little bit too defensive I think.

Q. You don't think it's an adjustment period just earlier in your career you were someone who really played a lot?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. But, I mean, I will better have to deal with it then because I'm not going to make myself, you know, play 24 tournaments again, you know. So that's the thing.
You know, it's only my, I don't know, sixth, seventh tournament back, and I have to get back into that rhythm. Obviously it's a different schedule than what I'm used to, but I have to get used to it, as well.
But I feel like, you know, if I compare it to my last trip, I think, you know, there's definitely a lot of improvement. I think obviously I want to keep that going.
The important points is definitely something that I think that if you have more confidence, that's something that will automatically add on to your game.

Q. In these types of matches, these long struggles, is it easier to play someone you know well rather than a player like Alisa?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Maybe a little bit. I also find it hard to read her game. She has not an easy technique to read, just because she -- I don't know what it is. I think she hits the ball late a lot of times, especially on the wide shots. It's very hard to read.
That's to her credit. I mean, for her, a bigger girl, I think she moves really well. And I think especially with that serve, I think she mixes up. Yeah, I just never really felt like I was constantly -- you know, with a lot of girls you can feel like you can move to the left a little bit, you know that it's coming crosscourt. You can just tell by their techniques a little bit.
But with her I found it a lot harder I think today. Like I said, it's the first time I played her, and hopefully if I get to play her again you get that feeling a little bit more.

Q. Yourself and Justine and Maria weren't the three top seeds coming in here, but you're more or less the three big names here. You're both out within the first few days. Is that a little bit of a surprise?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, maybe, I would have, of course, loved to have given myself another shot at trying to get to those quarters, semis, finals. I think this is always a tournament that I love to play at.
But, you know, something that I've really noticed in these last few months since I've come back - and it's not just at this tournament - I think a lot of the top players, or like, you know, a lot of people expect, you know, the top players to do well.
But you see it more and more that, you know, in the early rounds, I think it just becomes a lot tougher. You know, I don't think it's -- I think it's in a way, yeah, you want to see those big names playing. But I think there's a lot of younger girls now who are coming up and make it really tough for us.
I think when you're not playing your absolute best, I think anybody is, you know, out there to beat us. I think it's something that I've really noticed these last few months when I've been back.

Q. Would you say there's more depth in the women's tour than when you left?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think so, yeah. I really think so. Like I said, it's something I noticed since I came back. I remember in the past when I used to go to Grand Slams, and I think my first two, three rounds, I think they were always kind of easy.
I think now it's definitely not the case anymore. Every match you really have to go out there and fight, and I think it's something that, you know, it's good for the sport. You know, I think it's obviously a mental battle from the beginning, from the first round, you know, if you play Grand Slams, those seven matches, it's something that's challenging.
It makes the players who are mentally ready and physically ready, it makes those stand out. And those are the ones at the end of the trip or end of the tournament will keep standing.

Q. Do you think maybe the media takes a little bit for granted? That after you win the Open, your third tournament back that you're really still on a learning curve?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know.

Q. It's only six, seven tournaments back.
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I mean, to me it definitely feels like that. I still feel like every time I go to a tournament, I'm adjusting. I'm still adjusting. I have to, you know, get used to the whole, you know, the different lifestyle, first of all.
And also just getting, like after the Australian Open, getting my game back and preparing myself mentally for matches, and just keep staying hungry out there. Obviously it is a battle. It's a battle for everybody, especially for me in my situation.
I think it's something that I really have to be focused on. But, you know, it takes a lot of energy and it costs a lot of energy to, you know, be constantly focused on what you're trying to achieve.
I think it's, you know, working. I feel that I'm improving. It's just that the consistency is not always quite there.

Q. When you think of the US Open, do you think back to sort of being in the zone, only your third tournament back, it's just there's no pressure, nothing? It was just sort of a perfect combination of circumstances, and maybe now it's a little bit more complicated that the expectations are back again?
KIM CLIJSTERS: That's something that -- it doesn't really bother me. I think, you know, pressure like Billie Jean King calls it, is a privilege. It's something -- it's true. It's something that -- because you've done well in the past.
But, you know, to me it's always been -- I mean, I've always known that I had to work hard to get to where I'm at, so it's not because, you know, I won last year at the Open and I think everything is just going to go smoothly. Not at all. The opposite in a way, because a lot players want to beat you when you stand in front of them.
I think that a lot of times make it even harder. But, you know, that's sports in general. I think every, you know, big name or whoever it is, has, you know, has that. And I think I was like that when I was younger, so I just have to -- yeah, especially today, I think, you know, it was very close. I just have to make those important points. I just have to make sure they go my way next time.

Q. By winning at the Open, did that make expectations greater for yourself and for us, that you won right away coming back? Was that maybe a little bit of false sense of where your game was then?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Look, I'm not going to sit here and say, Hmm, I wish I didn't win it. Of course, it was something that has definitely helped me a lot, and it also made -- gave me that confidence, you know, that I was looking for, you know. Last year obviously I had a lot of doubts, you know, even when I was just training. I felt that I was improving. I felt like physically everything was getting better and improving.
But obviously, you know, not having been playing against, you know, the top players was something that, you know, I was doubtful about. Obviously when I came to the tournaments, Cincinnati, Toronto, I think, you know, I played okay, but I just didn't really beat those big names.
I think at the US Open, you know, to me, it was like, Okay, I can do it. Now it's just a matter of trying to just really raise my level at the beginning of the tournaments, or at least when I have to. Obviously you don't want to waste too much energy if you don't have to.
But a match like today, this is a match where I just have to have that, you know, that little bit of killer instinct back and try to just finish it off when I have my chances.

Q. Nicole Vaidisova retired today at 20.

Q. She did.

Q. No. 2, two Grand Slam semifinals, and apparently just didn't like it much anymore. Can you just talk a little bit about her and how the sport sometimes can maybe eat its own?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, wow. That's a little bit of a surprise to me. I actually just saw her here the other day. I didn't know if she was here to practice. Obviously not.
But Nicole -- you know, I've had -- I mean, I've practiced with her a lot. I've always enjoyed practicing with her. She was a big talent, and, you know, big serve. I don't know what, you know, made her think now maybe -- I don't know. I mean, I don't know how she was brought up, the people that she had around her.
I think -- I don't know how that has had an impact on the way she is feeling at the moment. Obviously she's -- I don't know if she's married or dating or engaged or...

Q. Engaged.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Engaged? Yeah, to Radek. But that also I think has an influence on I think as a woman. At one point you feel like, Okay, there's going to be different stages in my life, and I think maybe she has reached one of those.
But obviously I'd like to talk to her and listen to what, you know, how she experienced this whole -- yeah, how she experienced, you know, giving up tennis.

Q. But when you were younger it was clear, and with some other players, how much fun you had playing. You could see the joy when you're on court. With her, it just never looked like...
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, that's something I felt like when I practiced against her, I was always -- you know, it was a good. She hits the ball hard. It was good to get a good feeling out there.
Like I said, she never really -- I never really felt when I was playing against her like I played, you know, if I practiced against Jennifer Capriatti or Sugiyama, like those were really good hits and fun hits. We were laughing and training really hard.
I think with her we never really had that feeling that she was out there for the fun of it, as well. You know, I think she felt a lot of pressure, as well. Maybe from her entourage. I don't know if that had anything to do with it. I think also obviously the different personalities. There's girls, if you're a perfectionist in sports, I think it's very hard to achieve, I think.
So, you know, maybe that, after a while, it becomes very draining. You need to realize that every day, everybody, even Roger Federer, makes mistakes. And I think -- I don't know, maybe if that had something to do with it.
You know, she was always a girl, especially in matches, was very down and showed a lot of emotions.

Q. Are there more tall players than there used to be?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Hmm. (laughter.)

Q. One less now?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. Yeah, that's a good one. (laughter.)
I don't know. Actually, I don't bring my ruler or my measuring tape to the courts, but... (laughter.)
Um, I don't know. I don't know.

Q. How much of an advantage is it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: To be taller?

Q. Yeah.
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think it has its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously I think, you know, your movement is always going to be a little bit slower than, you know, than I think a smaller girl, obviously, I think, which is pretty obvious.
I think serving, I think Lindsay is a perfect example of she was such a clean striker of the ball, and great serve. Venus, Serena, tall girls. You know, Maria had a really good serve.
So I think, yeah, I think, you know, especially with the serve, I think it is a good advantage. But then again, movement-wise, I think it's something that these days in tennis, you know, there's a lot of really, really good girls out there.
I think the surface definitely plays a big role, as well. I think here the ball bounces up a little bit higher, so I think the surface is a little bit slower, which makes it a little bit easier for the tall girls to get to the shots than, let's say, at Wimbledon where it bounces really well.

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