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Clijsters Comes Up Short at Another Major
Sat Sep 6,11:25 PM ET

By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK - Denied again.

AP Photo

Slideshow: Tennis: U.S. Open

Kim Clijsters will have to wait for that Grand Slam title that eludes her. The honor of U.S. Open (news - web sites) champion will be added to the resume of her countrywoman instead.

Justine Henin-Hardenne beat the world's top-ranked woman 7-5, 6-1 on Saturday night in an all-Belgian final, Henin-Hardenne's second victory this year over Clijsters in the championship match of a major.

Henin-Hardenne, who will move up in the rankings one spot to No. 2, defeated Clijsters 6-0, 6-4 to win the French Open (news - web sites) earlier this year.

Clijsters is the first top-ranked woman without a Grand Slam title.

"I would love to play for some more Grand Slam titles," she said. "I always want to take the positives out of the tournament. It's disappointing to lose here, but Justine was too tough. I don't want to use these type of matches to overlook all the good things I've done."

Playing in her third major final and fifth straight Open, the 20-year-old Clijsters had another poor start. She has become known for her struggles in the most important matches, and she did little to change that Saturday.

She lacked consistency even on her strongest strokes. She committed an uncharacteristic 40 unforced errors, double-faulted four times and converted just two of eight break-point opportunities. She never found the rhythm that carried her into the final without dropping a set. She lost 12 of the first 15 points against the hard-hitting Henin-Hardenne.

And this was supposed to be Clijsters' chance. The woman she passed up last month to become No. 1, Serena Williams (news - web sites), was sidelined by an injury. So was her big sister, Venus. She had easily knocked out the only previous Open winner in the field, Lindsay Davenport (news), in the semifinals on Friday.

"I definitely felt like the first six matches I played coming into the final I played better," Clijsters said. "But I played an opponent who was the best one out there today and the best one of the whole tournament."

Clijsters came out tight, allowing Henin-Hardenne to take a 3-0 lead in the first set and gain the momentum early some 20 hours after her thrilling three-set victory over Jennifer Capriati.

After holding serve for 5-4 in the first set, Clijsters had two set points in the next game, but couldn't pull it out in front of a crowd that came to love Henin-Hardenne for her hard-fought win the night before.

Still, a gracious Clijsters — sometimes accused of being too nice — wore a smile as she held up her second-place award and was told she would receive $500,000 in prize money.

"I think Justine just played a great match today and she was too good," Clijsters said. "And beating Jennifer last night in what was probably the best match of the year that I've seen."

The women who grew up 15 miles apart entered the match tied for the most tournament victories this season at six.

"Kim and me are both great fighters and we represent Belgium very well," Henin-Hardenne said.

Since the start of 1998, only four top-seeded players have claimed women's singles titles at a Grand Slam.
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