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Air gets thin at summit
'Confused' Clijsters is No. 1 after three-set victory in final
By Joe Stevens, Staff Writer
August 10 2003
LA. Daily News

CARSON -- Kim Clijsters could have felt elated, bittersweet or even overwhelmed. She had just become the 12th woman and first Belgian to be ranked No. 1.

But instead of experiencing those feelings, confusion overtook her.

"I really don't know how I feel at the moment," Clijsters said. "I'm a bit confused."

When the WTA rankings officially come out today, there will be no confusion where Clijsters will be after defeating Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in the final of the JPMorgan Chase Open at Home Depot Center on Sunday.

Clijsters will be atop the rankings, unseating Serena Williams, who is expected to be sidelined six weeks because of knee surgery. The new No. 1 tried to clarify her confusion.

"There were so many things going through my mind that I didn't know how to react," Clijsters said. "There were so many sentences that I couldn't finish, so many things happening, all these people talking to me and congratulating me. And my cell phone in the other hand was going off all the time."

Even with Clijsters claiming the No. 1 ranking, there will be some fans who argue it deserves an asterisk. She isn't nearly as dominant as the injured Williams, who has won five of six majors. Clijsters has not won a major.

Still, Clijsters is on a streak of consistency that hasn't been seen since 1997, when Martina Hingis reached the semifinals of every tournament she played. This year, Clijsters has reached the semifinals or better in all of the 14 tournaments she has played.

"She's the most consistent player -- by far," Davenport said. "Especially with the amount of weeks she plays. She's played a lot of tournaments this year and hasn't had a letdown in one."

Although Davenport forced a third set with two service breaks in the second set, Clijsters took full control in the decisive set and didn't have much difficulty winning. Other than the lone game she won, Davenport won just five points in the 17-minute third set.

The biggest problem Davenport had throughout the match was her serve. When Davenport missed her first serve, Clijsters repeatedly pounced on the second. She won 66 percent of the points when Davenport had to go to her second serve.

When Davenport had her success in the second set, it ultimately was because she was making her first serve.

"I just did what I had to do to beat her," Clijsters said. "In the second set, she played a lot better. She definitely raised her first-serve percentage, and that made it a lot tougher for me to break her back, once she broke me."

Clijsters, who became the 12th woman to be No. 1 since the rankings began in 1975, celebrated her top ranking in a ceremony with champagne and cake. She insisted on cutting an enormous cake herself and divvying out the pieces to fans who were waiting to get autographs.

The 20-year-old is known on the WTA Tour for a bright personality and for not caring too much about the rankings. In fact, when pressed about how she feels about the rankings, she reiterated her view that she doesn't put much stock in them and that she never consciously set out to be No. 1.

But at least for one day, she relished the computer system that will declare her the No. 1 female tennis player in the world. Maybe she'll relish the confusion, too.

"It was a feeling that I never had before," Clijsters said of reaching No. 1. "It's something that's really hard to describe. Feeling confused is definitely a part that comes with it."

Nerve problem in foot ails Davenport

Lindsay Davenport did not have to sprawl out on a psychiatrist's couch. But she did offer a brief self-analysis Sunday.

Overall, Davenport was pleased with how she played this week, even though she lost to Kim Clijsters in the final of the JPMorgan Chase Open. The big sore spot for Davenport is her left foot. She said an inflamed nerve in that foot hampered her late in Sunday's third set, and she is worried the foot could hurt her at the upcoming U.S. Open.

When the foot problem returned, Clijsters led 3-1. Davenport said she didn't consider retiring from the match because of the injury, but afterward she was concerned.

"I'm happy to get into the final here," she said. "Now, what I'm going to work on is getting my foot in shape for the U.S. Open."

Davenport has an inflamed nerve between her third and fourth toes. The only medical remedy to stop the pain is to have surgery and cut the nerve.

So far, doctors haven't pushed the surgery. Instead, they have given her two cortisone shots for the pain.

As for her tennis, perhaps she has the most room for improvement with her third-set mentality.

"I'm fairly pleased with how the second set went," she said. "But again, when I get in these third-set matches, I tend to go away in the first couple games of the third. And I can't do that."

Attendance dips: During this, the JPMorgan Chase Open's first year at the 8,000-seat Home Depot Center, less than half the seats were occupied.

The final drew 3,651 and the week's attendance was 25,394.

At last year's tournament at the 5,300-seat Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan Beach, the final drew 4,819 and the week's attendance was 53,919.

Only 377 weeks to go: With her victory, Clijsters officially will experience her first day at No. 1 today, when the computer rankings are released. She has to stay atop the rankings 377 weeks, or seven years and three months, to tie Steffi Graf for the longest time at No. 1.

Second to Graf is Martina Navratilova, who was on top for 331 weeks, and third is Chris Evert, who was No. 1 for 262 weeks.

The other No. 1 players since the computer ranking system started in 1975 and their duration on top are: Martina Hingis (209 weeks), Monica Seles (178), Serena Williams (57), Davenport (37), Tracy Austin (22), Jennifer Capriati (17), Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (12) and Venus Williams (11).

Pierce, Stubbs take doubles: Mary Pierce and Rennae Stubbs took the doubles title with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Elena Bovina and Els Callens. Pierce and Stubbs also eliminated Svetlana Kuznetsova and crowd-favorite Navratilova in the semifinals.
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