Sweet revenge for Clijsters over Capriati
Sat May 10,12:40 PM ET
BERLIN (AFP) - Kim Clijsters gained revenge over Jennifer Capriati for her loss in the historic French Open (news - web sites) final of 2001 by winning a semi-final thriller at the 1.2-million-dollar WTA event here.
The top-seeded Belgian beat the American former world number one 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4 in two and a quarter hours of see-sawing struggle on Saturday, reversing the result in Paris two years ago when Clijsters lost 12-10 in the longest ever final set of a French Open final.
Clijsters beat Capriati for the first time and, although there was very little in it, both the performance and the result indicated how the 19-year-old has improved, particularly with her court coverage, her strength, and her ability to choose the right shot.
However the match also suggested that to progress further Clijsters may have to overcome her inhibitions about closing out a big match, because she failed to convert four match points in the second set, and afterwards looked like losing.
Two of the match points came at 5-3 in the second set and two of them at 5-4, both on her serve, and one of them was frittered away with a double fault. For a while it influenced the mood of the match for Clijsters played an indifferent tie-break, losing it 7/2.
However the contest was usually of a very high standard, with some rousing exchanges from the baseline, and a determination by both women to get the telling blow in first.
Clijsters looked the more secure in the forecourt on the few occasions when either woman got there, but Capriati characteristically took heart from having saved the match points, and played better as the match went on.
She took an injury time-out and received treatment on court between the second and third sets for some lower back stiffness, but although she went 1-3 down after that, she again made a fine recovery, eventually breaking serve to lead 4-3.
Capriati then advanced to within a point of 5-3 on her serve at which stage the match appeared to have turned her way. However there then came am astonishing rally which turned the contest.
Capriati attacked superbly, forcing a desperate Clijsters retrieve which landed short and slow in the forecourt, but, trying to angle it away too sharply, Capriati put it into the tramlines.
"She retrieves a lot of balls and it puts you under pressure when you are trying to knock these balls away," explained Capriati. "It was pretty important because only a couple of points decided the match."
That made the score deuce and Clijsters went on to break back for 4-4, before holding serve for 5-4, and when Capriati served to stay in the match, she did not win a point. The momentum change was sudden, decisive and spectacular.
"I knew that I had never beaten her and that's what motivated me most," said Clijsters. "I think I can play at a high standard for longer in a match, which is the biggest difference between me now and how I was in the French Open final.
"I am very pleased with this result, but I could have finished it a little bit quicker, having had those match points. It's a mental sport to a great extent. If you make mistakes you have to try to forget what went wrong and focus only on the positive things.
Clijsters will play her compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne in the final knowing that she will regain the world number two position from Venus Williams (news - web sites) on Monday whatever the result.
Henin, the titleholder, came through with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 win over Amelie Mauresmo, the former finalist from France, although the standard of this semi-final was more variable.
Henin was set point down at 5-6 in the tie-break, which she saved with a fine counter-hitting forehand and she showed the excellence of her all-court skills by working her way forward and closing out the first set with a sharply anticipated backhand volley.
But although both women had their moments with their flamboyant top-spinning from both wings and the match was peppered with fine shots, there was too much inconsistency on important points for the contest really to catch fire.
"It's difficult because she has the same style as me," reckoned Henin. "We were both hitting the ball hard and I had to think a lot about what I should do. But I stayed calm when I had to.
"It's great that Kim and I are in this final. For a little country this is a very special thing."
Clijsters has won the last three encounters between the Belgian compatriots, but the last time they faced each other on clay, in Rome a year ago, Henin was the winner.