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GogoGirl
Mar 16th, 2003, 12:21 AM
http://www.sundayherald.com/32107


Tennis: Clijsters content to be third in line




Eleanor Preston finds the world No 3 happy to take advantage when the Williams sisters are elsewhere



When your sport is dom inated by two all- conquering, Grand Slam winning powerhouses, it can't be much fun being third. Just ask Kim Clijsters. The Belgian, who takes on Lindsay Davenport in the Pacific Life Open today, is currently world No 3 and has been trying to swim in the wake of the Williams sisters since the start of the year, with varying degrees of success.
The Williams aren't even in Indian Wells this week but they are certainly in southern California in spirit. Barely has a day gone by without Clijsters having to field questions about life behind the Williams and whether she has any hope of breaking their stranglehold on women's tennis.

Earlier this week Clijsters put the whole thing into perspective. She did it with a grin but her tone of voice betrayed the faintest hint of suppressed irritation. 'In your mind how far away is the No 1 ranking?' she was asked. 'Two spots,' she answered. 'And how far is that gap?' the journalist continued gamely. 'Huge,' she said.

Win or lose today against Davenport, that gap will be a little less huge thanks to the points she has earned this week, but there is still a chasm between her and Venus in No 2 position. Serena is so secure in the No 1 place it would take something seismic to unseat her.

Clijsters knows that her only chance of catching either Williams sister is if they failed to defend the ranking points they earned last year. Serena won the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open, with Venus runner-up in all three.

The problem for Clijsters is that, save for events like this where they choose not to play, catching them will be an uphill struggle even if she wins a Grand Slam title herself. Clijsters is the only current player to have beaten both Williams sisters, having dispatched one after the other on her way to winning the WTA Championships at the end of last year. Prior to that, Martina Hingis was the last person to manage it, at the 2000 Australian Open.

The parallels with Hingis are worrying. After years of trying, and failing, to keep up with the Williams, she now appears to have given up playing tennis rather than keep fighting an unwinnable battle. Before injuring her foot and opting out of tennis, Hingis kept her ranking high by winning routine WTA Tour events like this. She picked up 35 of those titles, (aside from her five, pre-Williams Grand Slam trophies) and, for the most part, she could be relied upon to clean up when the Williams were elsewhere.

Beating Davenport today will be a significant scalp for Clijsters, and should provide yet another indication that in a parallel, Williams-free universe she would probably be the best player of her generation, just as Hingis once was.

Sensibly -- and she is a resolutely sensible girl -- Clijsters has been worrying about herself this week and not sparing a thought for absent friends or enemies. She seems determined to avoid Hingis' fate and let frustration get the better of her.

'You know, I don't really care how far I am from No 1. That is not a goal in my tennis career,' she said. 'I know for myself that I give everything I have for every match I play, for every practice, for anything I do. If you work hard you can get the best out of yourself. If it doesn't get you to No 1 then who cares? I did the best that I could do in my career so far. You know, to be No 3 is even out of my expectations. When I was younger I remember watching Jennifer playing the French Open [Clijsters went on to play Capriati in the French Open final in 2001] and that's huge. I was thinking 'I hope one day I will be able to play in the Grand Slams'. Even when I was in the juniors I never worried about rankings. They don't really matter. The most important thing is to be healthy because that makes you capable of playing. I try to be disciplined with everything that involves tennis, then we'll see how high I can go. That's what I've been doing. I'll keep doing that and see where it ends.'

This week that discipline has been present both on and off the court. On the court, particularly in the early rounds, she has often looked exhausted yet determination has pulled her through. She has now made the final of three tournaments on the trot (she was runner-up in Antwerp and Scottsdale before coming to Indian Wells) and says that feeling tired from playing a lot of matches is the price of that success.

Off the court, she has been revealing a rather eccentric approach to nutrition by eating the exact same meal every day, with the obsessiveness typical of superstitious athletes the world over.

'I am superstitious; I like to keep everything the same. I like to eat the same things, go to bed at the same time, and sit on the same couch. I'm not going to say all the things I do because you'll think I'm crazy,' she said, laughing.

Her meal of choice this week has been pasta, tomato sauce and broccoli. If the Williams were here, she might have needed spinach. They are both due to return to action next week, at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami, yet another event which Serena won last year. Both Clijsters and Davenport will be anxious to take advantage of their absence while they can.

CJ07
Mar 16th, 2003, 12:30 AM
at least Kim knows her #3 ranking is as good as it gets

disposablehero
Mar 16th, 2003, 12:40 AM
I have to laugh so hard at the idea some would put forward that #3 and Slam Semis are Kim's ambition. When Venus was her age, her career high ranking was #3 and she had no Slams. When Serena was her age, her career high ranking was #4 and she had one Slam. Kim has been on a steady upward trend for her entire career, save a few months here and there. Anyone who says they can prove she's reached her peak is lying. Yeah, Kim is happy to take titles when the Williams aren't around, but she is also happy to take titles when they ARE around. Nasdaq will be merely the next battle in what will likely be a very long war.

Sanneriet
Mar 16th, 2003, 12:47 AM
It struck me how much Kim actually sounds like Venus here. Venus talks about doing her personal best and not really worrying about the other things. I don't think they are being disingenuous, but simply choose to keep their goals to themselves.

SerenaSlam
Mar 16th, 2003, 01:42 AM
its a big difference to hear Kim actually say the gap is still "huge" and to hear her fans say, that gap has closed up a lot. isn't it? but that was a very good thing you brought up about kim compared to venus/serena!

angele87
Mar 16th, 2003, 01:51 AM
its a big difference to hear Kim actually say the gap is still "huge" and to hear her fans say, that gap has closed up a lot. isn't it? but that was a very good thing you brought up about kim compared to venus/serena!
You're confusing two different things though... the fans talking about the gap is between Venus and Kim which is indeed getting smaller ( points wise I mean) and the huge gap Kim is talking about is for number 1 which I'm sure all Kim fans will agree is indeed huge!

angele87
Mar 16th, 2003, 01:58 AM
To add on to what I just said : Come to think of it, the gap could both be huge and at the same time have closed up a lot... that's not the case here but it could be possible. Just for example, if Serena is leading a certain player by oh I dunno, 5000 points and in a month she's leading that same player by 3200 points well the gap would still be huge but it would have closed up a lot... That doesn't apply here but I thought of it so I thought I'd post it anyway lol

A4
Mar 16th, 2003, 03:29 AM
The parallels with Martina are quite startling too. How many tournaments did Hingis play in a year, just to stay in touch? Kim's played about 10 more tournaments than Venus.

As to age and the Williamses, its been done over and over again. A 17/18 year old Serena playing what? 8, 9 tournaments and still being in the top 10? Venus was definitely not playing 23 tournaments to keep up either. Imo, comparing Venus and Serena to Clisjters at the same age puts Kim in a worse light.

She's a different person and should be left to play without any comparison to Venus/Serena.

disposablehero
Mar 16th, 2003, 03:32 AM
The parallels with Martina are quite startling too. How many tournaments did Hingis play in a year, just to stay in touch? Kim's played about 10 more tournaments than Venus.

As to age and the Williamses, its been done over and over again. A 17/18 year old Serena playing what? 8, 9 tournaments and still being in the top 10? Venus was definitely not playing 23 tournaments to keep up either. Imo, comparing Venus and Serena to Clisjters at the same age puts Kim in a worse light.

She's a different person and should be left to play without any comparison to Venus/Serena.

Serena has also been at 8-9 tournaments and NOT in the top 10. Can't remember if that was late in 2000 or sometime in 2001. And when Venus was Kim's age, she had about 18 tournaments on the computer, just so you know.

A4
Mar 16th, 2003, 03:35 AM
Serena has also been at 8-9 tournaments and NOT in the top 10. Can't remember if that was late in 2000 or sometime in 2001. And when Venus was Kim's age, she had about 18 tournaments on the computer, just so you know.

Wow, Venus actually had a full calender year of playing tennis when she was 19? I must be growing senile. Appreciate the correction.

disposablehero
Mar 16th, 2003, 03:43 AM
18

Dawn Marie
Mar 16th, 2003, 04:35 AM
Can somebody tell me since 2000 how many tourneys did Kim,Venus and Serena play? thanks alot.

It seems that Venus and Serena since 2000, have played fewer tourneys than Kim has. I am not so sure though and Venus and Serena also have won many slams since 2000 and titles. Kim has made it to #3 with how many tourneys played?

When Venus made it to #1 how many tourneys did she play to get there? Same with Serena?

Brian Stewart
Mar 16th, 2003, 05:34 AM
The author doesn't seem to have a basic grasp on how the rankings work. How would Kim be facing an uphill battle even if she won a slam? On the contrary, if she wins a slam, she's going to gain on Venus, unless Venus wins the other 2. Venus will need at least one to stay ahead of a slam-winning Kim. And likewise, if the two of them are grabbing slams, that's going to drastically cut into Serena's points. Kim didn't do all that well in the last 3 slams last year as she nursed her arm injury. So she has plenty of room to gain there.

If Serena fails to defend 2 of those 3, she'll lose #1 to Venus or Kim, whomever does better in those 3 slams, unless 2 other players step up and win them.

As for the ranking thing, it's "damned if you do, damned if you don't". If she says she wants #1, she's too fixated on the rankings. If she says she's not obsessed over them (prefering to concentrate on *gasp* winning tournaments), it's because she's not motivated enough, or conceeding.

And I'm giving the writer the huge benefit of the doubt by assuming she meant that Kim is the only active player to beat both sisters in the same tournament, as the recent departees Hingis AND Sanchez-Vicario have done. A few other players have beaten both sisters (one of which is included in my sig).

Mercury Rising
Mar 16th, 2003, 09:18 AM
18
Wow so many belgians in the top 100 at that time.