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Clijsters' shot at glory

By Caroline Cheese

Profile: Kim Clijsters
Serena Williams may have lost just two matches all year, but that alone has probably given Kim Clijsters her best chance of lifting a Grand Slam trophy this season.

Williams, world number one and winner of the last four Grand Slam tournaments, has looked less than comfortable on the slow red clay this season and is no certainty to successfully defend her French Open crown.

Venus, meanwhile, has been troubled by injury and has won only three matches on clay this year.

Clijsters, by contrast, has been hugely impressive on a surface which allows her to make the most of her speed and penetrating groundstrokes.

Fit again after an injury-hit 2002 season, she recently reached the final of the German Open and won the Italian Open, achievements which have seen her overtake Venus Williams as the world number two.

Now comes the difficult part - transferring that form to the high-pressure environment of a Grand Slam tournament.

Pressure has not always sat kindly with the laid-back 19-year-old and this year she lost out to compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne in the Hamburg final after holding three match points.

Clijsters let slip a huge lead against Serena in Melbourne
Worse still, back in January, Clijsters led Serena 5-1, and had two match points at 5-2, in the deciding set of their Australian Open semi-final before going on to lost the set 7-5.

The Belgian denied that she had choked, but it was difficult to ignore the two double faults she delivered at 5-4.

But in winning the Italian Open this year, Clijsters went some way to proving her mental strength had improved by twice recovering from a set and a break down to outlast Amelie Mauresmo.

The Belgian is seeded to meet Serena in the 2003 French Open final, the stage at which two years ago she suffered an agonising 12-10 final set defeat to Jennifer Capriati.

And though she must ignore an 8-1 losing record against the world number one, the teenager says she is encouraged by the increasing competition in the women's game.

"I think it's great to see that there are a few other girls out there who are capable of beating the Williams sisters," said Clijsters.

"In the beginning, when they started playing finals against each other, I think a lot of people were getting bored.

"Now I think it's great for women's tennis to see a few players that can compete against them."

And there would be no more appropriate time for Clijsters to prove that she is the long-term contender to the Williams' domination of the sport.

Clijsters leaves her teenage years behind her on 8 June - the day after the French Open final.

Premium Member
1,432 Posts
This would please me, but it's more than a little premature to be making predictions even before the draw!

15,448 Posts
good luck kim!make the finals, but lose to justine!
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