Found this on the CNNSI tennis home page:
No glam, all game
Clijsters prefers to make statements on the court
Posted: Monday August 05, 2002 3:35 PM
Belgium's Kim Clijsters is one of the few players armed with the weapons and blessed with the physique to topple the Williams dynasty. But unlike her boyfriend, Lleyton Hewitt, who competes more fiercely than any player since Jimmy Connors, Clijsters has found a way to be a top player without turning every match into a blood feud. Generally regarded as the nicest player in the sport, Clijsters chatted with CNNSI.com last week from San Diego. Herewith, excerpts from the interview.
CNNSI.com: Where do you see yourself in the spectrum of women's tennis right now?
Kim Clijsters: That's a tough question. I don't really see myself as a top player. I always just try to compete in every match I play. I've always had that outlook on my career and on life. I've been [ranked] No. 3, I know that. But for me, the rankings aren't that important.
CNNSI.com: Really? I mean, you're young, you've had a lot of strong results already. You don't see yourself as one of the players who are front and center as the future of women's tennis?
Clijsters: I hope I'll be a part of that, but I don't think in the future so much. I know I've been lucky with my career. Everything has been going forward. I had a few weaker tournaments and wasn't playing so well but now I'm playing better. That's a good sign. But if you see 19-year-old girls, they're in school or university. I'm lucky and thankful that I'm capable of doing what I love to do.
CNNSI.com: I'll bite. What would you be doing if you weren't a tennis player?
Clijsters: Oh, I always liked tennis more than school, but I think I would enjoy being a student. Also, I love animals. I think I maybe a vet.
CNNSI.com: Back to tennis ... you obviously have a healthy perspective, but what do you make of this abnormal life you're leading?
Clijsters: I had to sacrifice a lot of things when I was younger. I hardly had any friends. I was always practicing after school so I hardly went to any birthday parties, things like that. When you're that young, it's tough. I had more friends in the juniors that I'd only see at tournaments than I had in school. But I appreciate this life. Especially when things happen like September 11 or you go to kids' hospitals, you really realize how lucky we are and how much worse it could be.
CNNSI.com: It's only an arm injury. It's only a loss.
Clijsters: Right. If that's the least, I would be OK.
CNNSI.com: Have you come to terms with your popularity?
Clijsters: It's tough. You start off playing tennis and you don't think about becoming famous or being in the newspapers or on TV. It's nice that they [publicize] it and people can enjoy watching you play, but on the other hand, the attention that comes with it can be a lot. You have to get used it. I've been lucky having my mom and dad. They've been there. You know, my dad was a soccer player and played in a few World Cups. He knows what it's like. My mom was a gymnast and she knows, too. My parents also don't know so much about tennis, and they've never pushed me. Even now it's like, "Be happy, be healthy and do what you want to do. If there's day that you don't want to play and feel you've had enough, then that's fine." What they also say is, "If you stop playing tennis, I think you'll miss it. And if you're going to do it, focus 100 percent."
CNNSI.com: What's the most fun thing your fame has enabled you to do?
Clijsters: Definitely, there are more fun things than bad things. A lot of doors open. I've gotten to go to dinners with famous people. Even in tennis, when I was little I was always watching Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati. Now they're my friends. You realize they're only people.
CNNSI.com: You're friends with ... ?
Clijsters: Yeah, on the WTA Tour people think no one talks to each other. Actually, there's a really good atmosphere in the locker room. We all enjoy being around each other and being together to support women's tennis. People see us competing and being rivals, but they don't see everything behind the scenes. Of course, if you have a tough match you're not best friends straight after. But overall, in my family, we've been through so much with health problems, it's like, if you lose a tennis match, so what? You're not going to die if you lose a match, and I think a lot of players don't realize that.
CNNSI.com: One of the successes of women's tennis is this culture in which players are very charismatic -- even a little outrageous sometimes -- and very marketable. You have Martina, the Williams sisters, obviously Anna, and so forth. Have you felt pressure to be more charismatic than you might naturally be?
Clijsters: No, not at all. Every girl tries to look nice and look after herself. You have to look fit. But I've never changed my personality or what I am just to be more famous or more popular. I don't need that. I just want to be the best tennis player. My big concern was never being on TV or being a star or being in the magazines. We have a good mixture of everything -- every person is different -- and I think that's good for the tour.
CNNSI.com: The Williams sisters obviously have been the story this year. You're mentioned as one of the few players with the game to stand toe-to-toe with them. How much pressure do you feel to break their hold, to step up and make women's tennis more competitive?
Clijsters: I don't feel pressure. I want to give 100 percent. I know I have to be fit if I want to compete with those top players. Especially in the quarters and semis, the matches get tougher. But I don't want to be fit just to beat Venus and Serena.
CNNSI.com: In three years on the tour, going from the juniors to an elite player, what has surprised you most?
Clijsters: I guess the attention you get. In the juniors, you play and then you're done. Here, you're away, there's travel. There are adjustments. But I think the WTA has done a great job helping with the adjustment from juniors. You quickly realize that it's a different world, but the adjustment is gradual. It's been very learnful. Is that a word? I mean, you mature a lot. Week in, week out the traveling is tough but it comes with it. I don't realize it any more, It's like a habit. When I'm home for a week or two weeks, I'm so bored after two days. This life, it's really something I enjoy. I mean, people are looking after you, we go to nice places, the weather is usually good so we play outdoors.
CNNSI.com: Now that you've split with Carl Maes as your coach, whom are you traveling with these days?
Clijsters: My dad. He came to Stanford. He's going home after Montreal. I've got a new coach. He's coming the week before the U.S. Open. I have a week off, so we'll be training in New York. His name is Marc Dehus. When Carl's wife gave birth, Mark filled in and I actually won my first tournament with him. So we already have worked well together.