Clijsters' Interview (Nov. 12, 2002)
HOME DEPOT CHAMPIONSHIPS
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
INTERVIEW WITH KIM CLIJSTERS
Defeated Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-3
Q. You looked determined. What was your determination and your motivation for today's match?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I was just going to try to bring as many balls back as I could. I tried to make her make the mistakes. That's what you have to try to do against her. I was very motivated. I lost to her, I think, six times or five times already. You know, it's great to have that win here right now.
Q. How much was the winning check a motivation?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't think I realized how much money it is.
Q. Is this the biggest win of your career for you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yes. Like before, they asked me what my biggest memory was and it was the French Open final. Now, this is definitely the number one spot.
Q. Kim, did you go in with a specific strategy to play Serena or were you going to play whoever it was the same way?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I was going to play my best game, trying to do that. Like I said before, just don't worry if she hits a few aces. Don't show any emotions. That's where they can read how you're feeling, and that's when they can push you a little bit extra. That's what I did and it worked, I think. Like I said before, I just tried to run as many balls back as I could. She made some few easy mistakes.
Q. Kim, could you tell she was a little tired, especially in the second set?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah. She wasn't moving as well as in the beginning of the set. I was getting a bit tired as well, so it was good she was getting a bit tired.
Q. Were you tired in the first set?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I started with a double fault. I don't know if that was because of nerves or anything. I wasn't nervous. I was a little bit more nervous before than all the other matches before the match. I felt pretty calm out there.
Q. You fell behind by a break three times in the first set. How were you able to mentally try to...I think a lot of girls when they get in that position, especially against them, get down.
KIM CLIJSTERS: I told myself, on my own serve games, I said, well, when I lost my serve games, I said, try to win that first point, because that can be a very big key in every game. If you get that first one, you can work yourself into the game if you have a few lucky shots. There was a few very long rallies, and with a smash, I got it back. Those are the games and points that you have to try to take and the chances you have to take. Yeah, I mean, I just kept fighting. I don't think I really realized at the time I was down. I was so focused on the game that I didn't really notice if I was down or up.
Q. Serena said she was kind of glad almost to end the year on a loss. It gets her motivated for next year. Is that a good thing?
KIM CLIJSTERS: You have to ask her. I'm sure she's going to be very motivated to go into the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year. She hasn't won that one yet. She's going to be extra motivated to go out there and play well.
Q. If somebody told you today that you were going to win this thing in straight sets, what would you have said to them?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I wouldn't have believed it.
Q. Are you that surprised?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yes.
Q. How much does it make you think you are ready to win the Grand Slams?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I'm not even thinking about that at the moment. I'm just enjoying this moment. I don't really want to think about what's going to happen next in the future. I want to enjoy this moment. This is my last match of the year. It was a pretty nice one to end with. I'm just going to enjoy the few weeks I have off now and start working hard for the Australian Open. It's a whole new year.
Q. Kim, have you talked to Lleyton yet?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. There's a big time difference.
Q. Did you talk before the match?
KIM CLIJSTERS: He was sleeping.
Q. Did he give you any kind of advice?
KIM CLIJSTERS: He just said to go and enjoy it, enjoy the atmosphere.
Q. You won three of the last four tournaments you played. Did you expect this by the end of the season?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, definitely not. Especially the way I was playing in the middle of the year. Even when I had my injury and I was feeling down at that time and changing coaches and not having a coach for a few weeks, that was tough, but I still kept being very professional and kept doing everything I should. I think that's what made me also more mature, now when I have a coach and everything is going well. I think the injury really helped me out for these type of tournaments.
Q. Kim, it seemed this summer at times you didn't really believe you could beat Venus or Serena unless they played a little worse. This week it seemed like there was a change in you. How did that come about and why?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I've got no idea. I know that if I play my best tennis and if I keep my consistency up throughout the whole match, I know I'm capable of getting close to winning matches against them. It all comes down to a few points then. I know if I played my best tennis, I can do it. It's just being consistent enough and a few points here and there.
Q. Tonight proves that you can do it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. Tonight it did. Today it did. You never know. The next match I play against them, I might lose one and one. That's what makes tennis so interesting at the moment. There is so many people that can I think Venus and Serena have played so well these last few years and have been up there. I think it's nice for the other players to see that they are beatable and I think that will motive also some other players.
Q. The first set you got even 5. Do you remember that serve? She had 109 mile an hour serve and you got it back. Do you have any idea how you did it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I did it with my racket. I just put my racket there, and luckily the ball hit the racket and it went over the net. I think she missed.
Q. She aimed it right into the net.
KIM CLIJSTERS: That's what I mean. You just have to try to make that extra ball, and when they don't expect it to come back, that can make them not in the right position or not focused, and they make a mistake. I think that was one of my goals. On not only this match, that's what I try to do every match.
Q. Players have been talking all week about being tired. Are you tired?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. I think I can have a big party tonight.
Q. How will you go about celebrating in the next few days? Will you go on a shopping spree with all that money?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, I'm building a house at the moment. It's nice. I can use it. I'm going to go home and go to an exhibition and play an exhibition against Justine, and then go to Australia, so I won't have a lot of time to do a lot of shopping. I might do a little bit of shopping here tomorrow before my flight.
Q. Rodeo? Where is your house?
KIM CLIJSTERS: In Belgium, in Brie, where I'm from.
Q. How much do you think your legs had to do with winning today?
KIM CLIJSTERS: If I would had no legs, I wouldn't have won. I think it played a big role. Of course, you know, I think I'm very lucky to have my type of legs, especially to play a sport. Maybe not for modeling or something, but to play tennis and to run a lot of balls down, I think my legs are pretty good.
Q. You did some incredible sliding not on clay. How did you do that?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I have no idea. I remember the first time I did it, and I did it at the US Open, actually when I played Serena as well, and they showed it on the replay that night on TV. I don't really think about it when I'm doing it. It's just natural. I've got no idea.
Q. Does it hurt when you do that?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Once it did. In Stanford last year, because it was so hot, and I kept sliding when I was playing Lindsay and I burnt my toe. Sometimes it hurts.
Q. Is that something you practice?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. Well, like, occasionally if I go and get a far ball in practice or something, but it's not something I work on.
Q. Kim, is winning this tournament kind of a coming of age statement that you are a world class player to be reckoned with, the elite?
KIM CLIJSTERS: It's hard. Of course, I'm going to be up there, and it's a big tournament. I'll definitely have my status. It's still pretty amazing for me to realize all of this and what I have achieved. I'm only 19. It's incredible. I can never imagined I would have been sitting here speaking to all of you after a win. That's something I would have never have thought. It's, of course, great. I don't see myself... I know I play tennis, and I play tennis because I enjoy it. I'm not there to be famous or anything. I'm just there to enjoy the tennis.
Q. Did you like the tournament format as opposed to the regular format?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yes.
Q. Kim, outside of being famous, though, do you feel like you belong with Serena and Venus and Jennifer now?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don't know. I mean, I know I can if I play well, I think I belong there, but there is a lot of other players who belong there as well. You have Lindsay and Monica who played really well, I thought, against Venus. You have players like Elena and Dementieva can always beat, but maybe not as consistent as what those top four players have done. I think if I have a consistent year, and if I'm injury free and stuff, I think I'm capable of staying in the top five.
Q. As big of a win as this is for you, have you had a chance to feel how it's sunk in and what your expectations were for such a big win, how it feels inside?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I had a few experiences, maybe not with my own game, but when Lleyton won the Wimbledon and US Open, that was amazing. I felt like I won them as well. That's what really sort of maybe made me realize how much it means and how much it means for a tennis player to win those big events. I was really... even like this week, I was doing everything very professional and 100 percent, so that's what paid off.
Q. How much do you think your attitude had to do with it? I mean, Serena even bought into the tired thing tonight when she came in. She said she felt like she was 98. All week long you've insisted, I feel fresh, not tired. How much do you think just the mental attitude maybe had to do with it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I think if you keep telling yourself, I feel tired, I feel tired, of course, you're going to feel tired. That's with every person. I was resting a lot during my days off. Of course, I didn't play... I think I only,,, before coming into this match, I only played about two hours and 20 minutes. I think with Venus pulling out, I had an advantage over Serena, because she played a pretty tough match against Jennifer yesterday.
Q. How do you feel about beating both Williamses back to back?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I didn't really beat Venus. It feels amazing. I don't think I'm realizing at the moment what I've done. I'm sure once I get back home to Belgium, I'll play my exhibition in front of those 10,000 people, and I'm sure I'll start realizing what they have gone through and what I've done.
Q. Kim, how proud is your father?
KIM CLIJSTERS: He was very proud. He said, yeah, I knew you could do it, well done. That's what I think every dad would say.
Q. Had he given you any advice before tonight's match?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Of course, he always supports me and helps me out. He doesn't really say tactics. He always says little things like, go out there and fight and have fun. Those are the main things he says. That's what I definitely did today.
Q. Where is this exhibition in Belgium? Would you tell us a little bit about it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: We played one last year in Antwerp. It was a bigger stadium, 20,000 people. This year I'm flying tomorrow, and Wednesday night, Belgium time, 6:00 I have to play the exhibition after getting in at noon. I don't know if my level is going to be as high as what I achieved here. It's going to be in the south part of Belgium where Justine is from. There is one from the north, where I'm from, and then one in the south. We play a match against each other. There is, like, a Belgium group and like music bands performing. It's really nice.
Q. It's just to give the Belgium people a chance to see you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: To see us, yes.
Q. Often winners come in and they don't appear that they really are having fun, but it appears that you are. Are you having as much fun as it appears?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yes.
Q. Is it as fun to win as you thought it would be at this level?
KIM CLIJSTERS: You don't really realize how it feels. This is definitely my biggest win, and it feels incredible. At the time, I couldn't believe when she missed that match point. I couldn't believe I won. Maybe at that time I had goose bumps all over my body. I couldn't believe it. It was amazing. It's an amazing feeling. I hope a lot of players can have that when they win a big event. It's really something amazing.
Q. Kim, how many tennis courts is your new home going to have?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I have no courts at my house. I have dogs.
Q. You just don't want courts?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No courts.
Q. You can still go to your father's house and play?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yes.
"For now, Roddick seems to play with the intelligence of a fence post."
Greg Couch, Chicago Sun Times