August 24, 2003
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kim.
Q. World No. 1, top seed at the Grand Slam, all you need is a title now.
KIM CLIJSTERS: That would be nice, you know, but it takes a lot more than just saying that. You know, it's definitely going to be tough, I think, especially now with Venus and Serena pulling out, you know, a lot of the seeds. I think, you know, a lot of players are definitely believing more in their chances now - I think are even extra motivated. I think it's going to be an interesting Grand Slam.
Q. What chance do you think there is of a Belgian final here?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I think we're both No. 1 and 2 seeds. The chances are probably bigger because of that. But, like I said, there's a lot of players that are even not seeded who are definitely playing well and definitely feel that they have a chance, and on any day they can probably beat anyone.
Q. You've been in a couple of Grand Slam finals. The first one was extremely close, almost heartbreaking. The second one not close at all. Did you prepare for the second Grand Slam final in a different way than you prepared for the first one?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no, the same.
Q. What you did in the first one didn't enter into your thoughts?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I mean, you know, I don't prepare differently for any match. You know, I think that's what probably any professional athlete wants to have, is a routine. That's what makes you feel comfortable. I definitely didn't change anything for that second match.
Q. As you look back at the French final, maybe you did in the few days afterwards, thinking about what you could of done differently, what did you conclude?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, you know, first of all, I didn't really have much time I think to reflect again and to think about what happened. I think having the finals the next day, then having my birthday and stuff was probably more celebrating everything. You know, I went to Rosmalen, I started playing on grass. It's something that you sort of focus on the next, getting your game ready for the grass. You know, I still feel like in that match, you know, I played a lot of matches before that. I played a lot of singles and doubles matches. I think I was probably just, you know, exhausted at the end of the week. I felt like throughout the whole French Open, I definitely didn't come close to my best tennis out there.
Q. How would you change that routine, if you would, for the US Open?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I'm not going to change my routine, not at all.
Q. Will you play doubles here?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I will. But I haven't played any doubles in the tournaments coming up. That's definitely something that I've changed.
Q. The fact that Serena and Venus aren't here, does it put any more pressure on you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I don't think personally it puts any more pressure. But I think there's definitely a lot more media attention and probably attention from the outside world that's put on you definitely. Also now with the No. 1 thing and everything, it's definitely something that, you know, has definitely drawn more attention to me. But personally, you know, those things are not going to change anything, the way I prepare, the way I feel, the way I look towards my tennis matches, whatever.
Q. Would you prefer if they were both here?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think so, yeah. I think it would be better, I think, for everything: for the tournament, for the crowd. But still I think, even without them, I still think that we have so many, you know, personalities and different type of players, I think this could definitely be, even without them, a very interesting Grand Slam.
Q. Is there a danger of whoever wins the title in a couple weeks, it will be the title that Venus and Serena weren't here?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I'm sure that's always going to be said, of course, you know, because in the last few Grand Slams, they've definitely been very dominant. I think that's definitely something that will -- of course, I think for any winner this year, there's always going to be a point where they're always going to point that out.
Q. In a couple years' time, that will be forgotten, won't it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: For sure (smiling).
Q. Venus and Serena don't attract attention just for their game, but the buzz they bring. Is there a feeling that you and Justine have to step up to the plate and create that buzz?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I think you just have to be yourself. I think that's what Venus and Serena are doing, too. They're interested in so much more. Serena I think has so many more ^ talents than just tennis. You know, I think it's great to see that someone can do so many things, definitely. I think that's great. But I'm not a good actor or anything. I don't see myself doing anything in that direction. But I think I create more opportunities, I think, to sort of - how should I say? - I think to expand yourself and your personality ^ .
Q. The other day Patrick McEnroe was discussing why you haven't won a Grand Slam. He said he doesn't think you're mean enough or hungry enough. Is that a fair criticism?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I mean, I am who I am. I'm not going to change that because he thinks I'm not mean enough. I don't want to be a mean person. You know, so no, that doesn't bother me at all. I'd rather be known as a nice person than a mean person.
Q. How about you're not hungry enough?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Oh, I'm hungry. I didn't have breakfast this morning, so I am hungry (smiling).
Q. Is there some tension between you and Justine?
KIM CLIJSTERS: There's no tension. I think there's rivalry. I don't think there's like any tension personally. There's definitely like rivalry. That's always, you know, been, especially when you grow up. But I don't think -- you know, I think we're very open to the fact that once we're on the court, we compete and everything, we are like competitive against each other. But then afterwards, we joke, you know, we have fun and stuff in the locker rooms and other things. We talk about other things. That's what tennis is about, is showing the rivalry on the court and competing for yourself. Yeah, so I think -- you know, I think every player has that with every player probably.
Q. San Diego?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think a lot of those things, definitely in Belgium, a lot of those things got blown out of proportion. I never, you know, said that she didn't have any blisters. I said the blisters didn't seem to be bothering her in the second and third set. I think a lot of people like to create something between us, as well, when there's nothing.
Q. With the Williams sisters absent, uncertainty about Mauresmo and Davenport's condition, shouldn't you play the final against Justine right now and spare us some time?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think that's a stupid question.
Q. Would be fine, no?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think -- I mean, it's not a question to answer. I mean, you probably know the answer already. You know, I don't think any player out on the tour is thinking like that. No one thinks about, "I'm going to play the final against her or her." I think if you do that, you probably shouldn't even come to the tournament because you've probably lost already. If you think too far ahead, I don't think that's right to do. I don't feel comfortable doing that.
Q. You've played a lot of matches this year, 70 or 80. You didn't play doubles on the summer circuit. I'm wondering, you said after Toronto your battery was a little bit low, if the loss there was sort of a blessing in disguise coming into here?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I think it was. Although like my first match, I played well against Schiavone. My second round, I didn't have any energy out there anymore. I just wanted to have a few days off, go shopping, go visit things in Toronto. With all the electricity problems, there went my few days off. Couldn't really do anything. But definitely those few days have been a lot of fun and made me, you know, really look forward to coming here, made me feel very hungry practicing and to, you know, do whatever I have to do for my tennis a hundred percent again.
Q. With all the injuries befalling these top players, you played more than anybody else, and you're injury-free. Is there some secret you have that others don't?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I don't think a lot of injuries have been because of overplaying or anything, not at all. You definitely cannot say that Venus and Serena are injured because they're overplayed. Not at all, I think.
Q. Lindsay said she's played too many matches.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, but there's also a different situation here. You have a player like Lindsay who, you know, is on the tour for a few longer years than I have been. I definitely feel like -- we definitely have completely different bodies, as well. I feel like I'm strong enough to do it, and young enough. That's definitely a big key, as well, is having a younger body. That definitely makes a big difference. But it's true, I don't see myself when I'm 25 or 26, you know, still playing the same amount of tournaments as I am now, yeah.
Q. Is there a sense of urgency in the way you approach tennis because you're hungry to play doubles, because you know you're not going to play that long?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I definitely don't feel very fit when I wake up in the morning. There's a lot of things aching and everything when I get up. I play doubles and everything because I enjoy it. I also feel for my singles, it helps me a lot. I think I've become a more complete player playing doubles and singles. It's definitely helped me a lot. If I wouldn't have played doubles, I don't think I would have been where I'm at now, definitely. But, no. I think definitely even next year, I'll still play doubles, you know, because I enjoy playing doubles, but probably not as much as I have been this year.
Q. I meant more in the long-term. For instance, Justine has a sponsor endorsement until 2008, something like that. You don't do that. Is that because you feel you might not play till the age of 25, 26, 27? Is it too early to say?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I think, you know, especially having my shoulder injuries and stuff, that's definitely something that's always, you know, going to sort of have a little bit of an influence. And I don't think I have, you know -- especially with my body and the way that I put the pressure I think on my body is a lot more than I think a lot of other players out there. That's probably maybe a little bit of a disadvantage that will shorten my career, I think. But, you know, who knows? I wish I was a card reader or anything, and sort of have a view on, you know, how long I would be able to keep it up. I mean, so far, this is my fourth or fifth year on the tour, I'm still enjoying going to every tournament. I think as long as you have that, I think that's when you have to keep going. From the moment that you're not enjoying it, not having fun, you don't want to go to the tournament, leaving home and stuff, then I think there's a problem.
Q. Tennis is one-on-one; no teammates out there. Is it possible for one player to have a psychological advantage over another? If so, does Justine have a psychological advantage over you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. Well, I don't feel that way, not at all. I think Justine has improved her game so much, I think she's become a lot more stronger physically. I think I'm sure you guys see that, as well. She's a lot stronger and muscled. She's got a lot more muscles. I think that's where she's definitely improved. She's definitely been playing really well. I think definitely in the last few months, she has, you know, increased her game much higher. I don't think it's got anything to do with mental problems, you know, mental influence or anything, no.
Q. What did it feel like walking into a Grand Slam for the first time as the No. 1?
KIM CLIJSTERS: It was nice, yeah (smiling). They still had to check my bags and stuff. You know, it's nice I think to see the draw, you know, to see your name on top of the list there. It's definitely something that -- a sheet of paper that I will take home, yeah.
Q. Did you get butterflies?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, a special feeling, yeah.
Q. Do you also think you have something more to prove here as being the No. 1?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. It doesn't change anything personally, I think. Like I said, you know, it changes probably -- you know, there's more attention and everything from the crowd and from media attention and everything. But personally, it doesn't change anything for me. I know that I have to, you know, work hard and that I have to play well to get through to my matches.
Q. Can you say a word or two about Monica Seles? She's going through a tough time with injuries.
KIM CLIJSTERS: I mean, she's been incredible. I think she's -- as soon as I got to No. 1, she wrote me a fax, she called me in Toronto and everything. That shows what a champion she is, if you can do those things. She's been, you know, growing up definitely a player I admired, especially after she had her stabbing. That's something that -- you know, she's such a strong fighter, with a nice and even strong personality. I think that's definitely, you know, sad not to see her here. I know how much she loves playing tennis and how much she enjoys coming. I think she's going to come here, too, just to have a look and to say hi to everyone. I think also if you see at all the tournaments she goes, she's always a favorite. A lot of people, everyone likes her. I think that's great to see.
Q. What did she write you in the fax?
KIM CLIJSTERS: To congratulate me, saying how proud and happy she is for me, yeah.
Q. When was your first day here that you walked in?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Tuesday.
Q. You just came down to hit on Tuesday?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. I was practicing.
Q. Was there anybody here when you came?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Security and everything. There were a lot of other players here already, yeah.
Q. Did you hear from any other No. 1's?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, Lindsay wrote me an e-mail. I saw her in LA. Everyone here like in the locker room and stuff, everyone's been very, very like supportive, very like happy and stuff.
Q. Did Hingis get ahold of you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no.
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, she did.
Q. What did she say?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Congratulations, yeah.
Q. Do you get a different treatment for No. 1?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no. I don't want to have a different treatment. Why? I mean, doesn't change anything, I think.
Q. Do people know you in New York when you walk? Obviously in Europe they know you everywhere you go.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, a little bit. Like the other day, the taxi driver, he goes, "You're playing the US Open. You're playing the US Open."
Q. Did you have your racquets with you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I was in casual clothes, too. We were just coming back from dinner. So, yeah, a little bit. Like when I go shopping and stuff, sometimes.
Q. Back in Belgium, on TV, in the newspapers, are tennis fans taking sides of who they like better, Kim or Justine?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I don't really think that's a question to ask me. I think you probably have to ask all the Belgians at home.
Q. Do you see anything in the newspapers or hear anything on TV?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no, no.
Q. Two of the last three men's champions aren't here, but Lleyton is. What do you think his chances are?
KIM CLIJSTERS: He's definitely very hungry I think to play. I mean, he's been working really hard. He's been training really hard. I think definitely if he plays well. I think with the men, there's so many details that play a big difference. You know, draws and everything, sets. If you have a few tough sets, that probably takes a lot out of there. I think there a few things make a big difference, probably more than with us.
Q. Bearing in mind he didn't have the year he had last year.
KIM CLIJSTERS: He's had two incredible years, I think. I mean, I think anyone out there would love to change their career with his. The media, they're always going to try -- when it's going well, they're always going to try to break the player down as soon as it's not going well. I think that's definitely what's been going on with him at the moment, you know.
Q. Knowing what you know about the Williams sisters, Seles isn't here, Davenport, Capriati, are you the type of person that has to just forget about all of that, not factor that in?
KIM CLIJSTERS: It's something that you definitely don't think about when you're out on the court, not at all. You know, of course in these few days, towards the start of the tournament, you cannot miss it. There's been so many people talking about it. But I don't think -- yeah, like I said, it's definitely something you don't think about when you're playing or when you're in the gym preparing for your matches. No, not at all.
Q. Do you personally feel more pressure?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, no.
Q. How does it feel to be the No. 1 seed?
KIM CLIJSTERS: It's nice. It's nice. It's a nice feeling. It's definitely an experience, a new feeling. Definitely a nice feeling to have. It's definitely something no one can ever take away from you anymore, so it's also a nice feeling to have.
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