Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne reach German Open final
May 10, 2003
BERLIN (Ticker) - Kim Clijsters' friendships are being tested this weekend as she moves closer to her third title of the year.
The top-seeded Belgian beat No. 4 Jennifer Capriati of the United States in Saturday's semifinals of the German Open and will take on countrywoman Justine Henin-Hardenne in the championship match.
Clijsters advanced to her fifth final of the year with a 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4 victory over Capriati at the $1.22 million claycourt event.
It was their first meeting on clay since the Roland Garros final in 2001. Two years ago, Capriati beat Clijsters, 1-6, 6-4, 12-10, in the longest-ever third set in a French Open final.
"I hadn't beaten her before (0-3), and that's what motivated me before the match, to get a win against her," Clijsters said. "It's always a little bit tougher if you're good friends, and since that French Open, we've become very good friends.
"Maybe in the matches we've played in the past, I've always respected and looked up to her, and that was probably a weakness I had, that I respected her so much. I still do, but now I can block that out a little bit."
Henin-Hardenne, who had Clijsters in her wedding party last November, got past No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo of France, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. The third-seeded Belgian will have a chance to win her third title in as many finals Sunday.
Clijsters dropped her first set of the week but won for the 16th time in her last 17 matches.
"I was playing so well throughout the whole match, and then you play a couple of bad games on your serve and it slips away so easily and so quickly," she said.
"When I was younger, my best level was probably close to what it is now, but I couldn't keep it up for a whole match. Now I can have a game or two where I'm not playing well, but I can regroup myself, and that's what I didn't have a year ago."
Capriati has seen the improvement since the last time they met on the court.
"She is more consistent," the 26-year-old American said. "She's always been a good mover, but maybe she's moving a little bit better. She's stronger now and not making as many mistakes. Before, she was a little bit erratic, but now she definitely plays smart tennis out there and doesn't hit in the middle too often."
The 19-year-old Clijsters has won three straight matches against Henin-Hardenne and leads the all-time matchup, 7-2. She will be gunning for her 13th career title after winning at Sydney in January and Indian Wells in March.
Capriati was pleased with her performance this week, considering her health problems. She started the year with opening-round losses in Sydney and Melbourne while recovering from eye surgery to remove sunspots withdrew from Charleston due to strep throat.
"I think it was a good match from both ends," she said. "I haven't had too many great matches this year, but that was one of the best. Kim played great, but I could have won the match."
A two-time champion this season, Henin-Hardenne cooled off the last two title winners on the WTA Tour. She eliminated Vera Zvonareva, who won her first career crown Sunday in Croatia, in the quarterfinals before knocking off Mauresmo, the champion last week in Warsaw.
The 20-year-old Henin-Hardenne usually frustrates players with her variety, but Saturday she faced a player with the same style in Mauresmo.
"It's very difficult because she has the same game as me," Henin-Hardenne said. "I had to think a lot about what I had to do, but I'm pretty happy because I just stayed focussed on every point and finally I won the match against a really top player. She's playing great and she won last week in Warsaw, so for me it's a great result."
Mauresmo, the 2001 winner here, had her nine-match winning streak stopped.
"It was a very close match, especially the first set, and it went (Henin-Hardenne's) way today," Mauresmo said. "It was a very good level of tennis, I think, and there's not really anything I can think of that made the difference in the end.
"It was a few points here and there. I'm happy with the way I played, but maybe I needed to be a bit fresher today after so many matches in the past two weeks. But I'm consistent in my game, and that's the most important."
Sunday's winner takes home $182,000.