Assoc. Press - Kim d Venus
HAMBURG, Germany (AP) -- Belgium's Kim Clijsters picked up one of the biggest wins of her career Sunday, rallying to beat top-ranked Venus Williams in three sets to claim the Betty Barclay Open.
Clijsters, the18-year-old rising star who has climbed to No. 3, was blasted off the court by Williams in the first set, but then charged back to win her seventh title, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 with the third set especially hard-fought.
"Venus played so well in the first set -- she didn't make any mistakes," Clijsters said. "I just had to fight back and I got better."
Williams fought back from 1-4 and 3-5 deficits before the Belgian claimed the match in just under two hours, sealing the win when she drove the American deep into the corner and forced a two-handed backhand that missed the line.
Williams, who insured she will remain No. 1 for another week by reaching the final, had easily beaten the teenager in straight sets at the U.S. Open, their only previous meeting.
Clijsters, the daughter of a Belgian soccer star, has been closing in on the top players since she pushed Jennifer Capriati to a 12-10 third set in losing last year's French Open. She reached the Australian Open semifinals, then was sidelined six weeks by an arm injury.
If the history of the Betty Barclay is any indication, either Williams or Clijsters will reach the final of the French Open, which starts in three weeks. In the tournament's 15-year history, 10 times one of its finalists has also reached the last match of the grand slam.
"Last year, I really didn't play that well even though I reached the final," Clijsters said. "This year I'm going in with more confidence -- I'm just playing well."
Williams won the title in 1999 and 2001 and was chasing her fifth title this year. The $49,500 second-prize money left her around $100,000 short of the career $10 million mark in earnings.
Jennifer Capriati could reclaim the top spot from her in Berlin next week.
In the one-sided first set, Williams lashed winners and made no errors to go along with her power as she appeared set to dominate another top 10 player, having posting a 14-1 record against them last year.
But in the second, she played almost defensively as Clijsters began forcing her to constantly shift sides and hit off-balance shots.
In the third set, Williams wasted several break chances, the biggest coming when she had closed to 4-3 and then had a break opportunity in the next game.
Williams stayed in the point as Clijsters sent her scrambling from one side of the court to the other, then both rushed the net for a trade of volleys. The Belgian teenager then angled a winner into the open corner and went on to claim the game.
Clijsters earned $93,000.