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tennisIlove09
Jun 1st, 2003, 07:01 AM
Clijsters Answers Belgium's Fed Cup Call
Sat May 31, 8:55 AM ET Add Sports - Reuters to My Yahoo!


By Pritha Sarkar

PARIS (Reuters) - Kim Clijsters committed herself to Belgium's Fed Cup cause after powering into the fourth round of the French Open (news - web sites) Saturday with a 6-2 6-1 win over Argentina's Paola Suarez.



The Belgian number one had earlier refused to confirm her appearance in the quarter-final tie against holders Slovakia in July as it clashed with her WTA schedule.


But Saturday, she said: "Yes, I'm definitely going to play against Slovakia."


Set to play a WTA event in Stanford the week after the Slovakia clash, the world number two had been worried the long journey from the tie in Europe could hamper her chances of victory in the Californian event.


After engineering Belgium's 5-0 Fed Cup first-round whitewash of Austria by winning all three of her matches, she had said: "I'm not sure if I'll play as I don't like the idea of all that traveling and the jet-lag."


Although she still does not relish the idea of the long journey, the Belgian number one said she was looking forward to the clash against the Daniela Hantuchova-led side.


"Daniela is a very, very good player and I've had tough matches against her in the past. But one of her weaknesses is her movement as she has trouble covering the court.


"I'll definitely try to use that and make her move. But it should be a good tie," said Clijsters, who has beaten Hantuchova in all three of their meetings, Saturday.


HUGE RELIEF


The news will come as a huge relief to Clijsters's compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne and to the Belgian tennis federation.


Last year, the 2001 champions went out to Italy in the quarter-finals after both Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne chose to concentrate on their WTA tour commitments.


Had Clijsters opted to skip the Slovakian tie, Belgian number two Henin-Hardenne would have had to shoulder the burden of defeating the defending champions almost single-handedly. The next highest-ranked Belgian is world number 69 Els Callens.


"I said last year I would be coming back and it's because I realize that Fed Cup is important for me. I enjoy playing in a team situation and it is good for my game," Henin-Hardenne said after the Austria triumph.


With the top two Belgians in the frame, a showdown against the United States in the semi-finals beckons.


"It is perhaps a little early but it would be a great match," Clijsters said. "I'm sure Justine and I will be very motivated for that one."


Henin-Hardenne, one of only two players to have beaten world number one Serena Williams (news - web sites) in 2003, said challenges like playing the Williams sisters was something she always relished.


"Serena and Venus are a very good team, of course, but it is great for Belgium to have two top players and a great team and I think we have a great chance."