Clijsters wins, regain NO.2 Status
Clijsters wins, regain NO.2 Status
High standard performance of Clijsters
By Helene Bonnard
Special to WTAFANS.COM
Kim Clijsters beat Jennifer Capriati 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-4 Saturday to reach the German Open final
By reaching the final, Clijsters made sure of regaining the world number two spot she lost this week to Venus Williams, who pulled out of the Berlin tournament with a stomach injury
The combative 19-year-old, who had lost her previous three encounters with the former world No. 1, including their memorable 2001 French Open final, will meet compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne, who defeat France's Amelie Mauresmo, 7-6, 6-4 on Sunday.
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.
"Having never beaten her was an extra motivation," said Clijsters. "My legs were hurting but I just kept going."
The decisive set was close until the fourth-seeded Capriati double faulted to present Clijsters with three more match points and hit a backhand into the net on the first after two hours and 17 minutes of entertaining tennis.
"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."
"Kim played really great but I definitely could have won," Capriati said. "I missed easy points and you can't do that against a top player."
"I thought maybe at that point that I had it. She started to make a few mistakes. But I lost a bit of energy on that game. She got the momentum back and I got a little tired," Capriati said.
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.
Jennifer Capriati received medical treatment during her semifinal match against Kim Clijsters of Belgium at the German Open tennis tournament, but although she went 1-3 down after that, she again made a fine recovery, eventually breaking serve to lead 4-3.
"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 has won seven of the 11 meetings with Henin-Hardenne, including both matches this season.
"I don't want think to about the final now," said Clijsters, looking both relieved and exhausted. "What I'm thinking about is that I need some sleep."
Justine Henin completes all-Belgian Final
Henin, the defending champion, 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.
However, Mauresmo, the fifth seed and 2001 German Open champion, squandered a set point in the first-set tiebreak and had chances in the second as well but Henin-Hardenne showed more composure when it mattered.
"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."
"It's great for a small country like Belgium to have two players in the final," said Henin-Hardenne.
Two Williamses : No longer the top two players in the world
Actually, there's a double dose of hope for the likes of Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati. One of them now may be able to make the final of a Grand Slam tournament without having to defeat one of the Williams sisters, or win a Grand Slam without having to defeat both Venus and Serena.
Venus and Serena Williams may still dominate the women's tour, but they are no longer the top two players in the world. Ever so quietly, Clijsters replaced Venus as the No. 2 player in the world in the latest WTA Tour rankings. Clijsters, who is on her work this week to regain NO.2 status, finally realize her mission when she took revenge against Jennifer Caprati in an exciting match that take 2 hours and 16 minutes.
What this means, when Venus isn't in the No. 2 position, is that the Williams sisters will no longer be assured of being placed in opposite halves of the draw for Grand Slam events. Seedings are based on world rankings.
Whether the No. 3 or 4 seed is placed in the top or bottom half of the draw depends on the luck of the draw. The No. 3 seed was placed in the bottom half of the draw last year at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but in the top half at the French Open. All-Williams finals may not always be possible if Venus and Serena aren't ranked first and second.
Of course, Serena with her more than 2,500-point lead in the rankings probably is assured of being placed at the top of the draw as the No. 1 player in the world through at least Wimbledon.
But Henin-Hardenne's conquest of Serena's big game opened up some eyes on the circuit and probably gave other players in addition to Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne, Davenport and Capriati hope for the year. I would say that any of those four players, especially Davenport and maybe Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne, have legitimate shots at the world's No. 1 ranking by this time next year, or maybe even by the time the U.S. Open ends in just six months.
Moreover, Venus Williams said she did not know how long the injury, sustained three weeks before the French Open ( starting on May 26, would keep her sidelined.
"My plan is to take each day at a time, have some rest and hopefully be fully fit again as soon as possible," she said in a statement.