Belgians Would Like An All-Belgian Final At The USO
Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne would like all Belgian final
By JANIE McCAULEY
.c The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - Before the U.S. Open began, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne wanted to make one thing clear: they are not two bickering Belgians.
They're the tournament's top two seeded players battling, thank you, and they say any perceived problems between them are nonsense.
``There's no tension, I think there's rivalry,'' said Clijsters, the No. 1-seeded woman in a field that saw defending champion Serena Williams and big sister Venus withdraw because of injuries.
Earlier this month, Henin-Hardenne rallied for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Clijsters in the Acura Classic, a rematch of the French Open final.
The pair differed on whether Henin-Hardenne needed the injury timeout she called at the end of the first set to have a trainer retape a blister on her right foot.
Clijsters clearly implied that Henin-Hardenne used the five-minute break to recover from a poor first set. She also said it helped Henin-Hardenne rebound in the second.
Henin-Hardenne, who beat Clijsters 6-0, 6-4 in the French Open to become the first woman from Belgium to win a Grand Slam singles title, denied using gamesmanship.
The two are tied for the lead on the women's tour with six singles titles in 2003.
``It's unbelievable for a little country to have two players Nos. 1 and 3 in the world,'' Henin-Hardenne said Sunday. ``But I think it's not very important. Kim has a lot of fans. I have a lot of fans. We are just two different kinds of players, two different kinds of personalities.''
Both Clijsters and top-seeded men's player, Andre Agassi, had laid back practice sessions the day before the start of the Open.
The 20-year-old Clijsters hasn't won a Grand Slam title, and this seems to be as good a time as any to do it. The Williams sisters split the past four Open championships.
While hitting with Jelena Dokic, Clijsters spun around at the end of an exchange trying to hit a ball, and kicked a ball in fun, too.
Clijsters' boyfriend, former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, will follow her into Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday to face Victor Hanescu. Hewitt (the 2001 champion) and Agassi (1994, 1999) are the only men entered who have won the U.S. Open.
Agassi watched Sunday as two straight serves buzzed by him for aces - and a bit of disbelief showed on the face of the world's top-ranked player and the best returner of his generation.
He walked toward his hitting partner, Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, shaking his head as they changed over in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
``It's amazing how these linesmen see, huh?'' Agassi said with a smile.
The 33-year-old Agassi, the oldest No. 1 player in rankings history, faces Spain's Alex Corretja in his first-round match Tuesday.
No. 4 Andy Roddick also has Monday off, while those scheduled to play include third-seeded Lindsay Davenport, Amelie Mauresmo and French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero.
A lot of attention, though, will be focused on someone without a racket: Pete Sampras. He hasn't played a match since beating Agassi in last year's final at the National Tennis Center and is formally announcing his retirement Monday night.
Davenport canceled her scheduled practice session Sunday because of a troublesome left foot.
The injury forced Davenport to retire midway through the championship match of the Pilot Pen against Jennifer Capriati on Saturday.
Davenport drove from New Haven, Conn., to New York on Saturday and was examined by a U.S. Open doctor, who gave her a cortisone shot.
She has been struggling with a painful nerve disorder in her left foot and was noticeably limping against Capriati, who was leading 6-2, 4-0 when Davenport walked to the net and ended the match.
``She has been advised by doctors to stay off her feet today,'' Davenport's agent, Tony Godsick, said Sunday. ``She has every intention of playing in the U.S. Open.''
08/25/03 01:50 EDT
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.