Clijsters closes in on No. 1 after Australian OPEN win
PARIS–Kim Clijsters is more interested in trying to win major titles than returning to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in five years, despite being only two matches away from overtaking Caroline Wozniacki at the top.
Clijsters, who won the Australian Open for her fourth Grand Slam victory, only needs to reach the semifinals of the Open Gaz de France this week. She plays Kristina Barrois of Germany in the second round on Wednesday.
“When you’re this close to making it, it would be a nice accomplishment if I could do it,”the 27-year-old Clijsters said Tuesday.”I’m not going to be disappointed if I don’t make it. I would like to focus on a few more goals throughout this season, which are a couple of the bigger tournaments.”
Even if she is successful, Clijsters said the first time she became No. 1 in August 2003 at 20 would always mean more to her. The Belgian held the top spot again in 2003, and was last No. 1 in January 2006.
“Back then I felt like it was a big achievement because I was obviously a lot younger and playing in an era where there were a lot of big names out there,”Clijsters said.”Lindsay Davenport, the Williams sisters were a part of it. I was in a very similar situation to what Caroline Wozniacki is now–I hadn’t won a Grand Slam.”
Clijsters, who has also won three U.S. Open titles, could possibly meet the fifth-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia in the quarterfinals. That may be a tough match since she hasn’t rested since beating Li Na of China in the Australian Open final on Jan. 29.
Clijsters won both her Fed Cup matches against American players Melanie Oudin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands last weekend. Oudin rallied to beat Vera Dushevina of Russia 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 Tuesday in the first round matches of the Open Gaz de France.
“I haven’t been able to just relax and recover. I’m still going on with the same intensity I was in my three or four weeks in Australia,”Clijsters said.”But I do look forward to having a few days off when I’m done in this tournament.”
Both times in 2003, Clijsters lost her No. 1 ranking to Justine Henin, a friend and former Fed Cup teammate. Henin recently announced her retirement for the second time because of an elbow injury sustained at Wimbledon.
“It was obviously a shock. I still thought she was planning on keep(ing)going until the Olympics, and we were maybe going to play doubles together,”Clijsters said.”So yeah, I was surprised.”
They spoke at the Fed Cup series in Antwerp, and Clijsters hopes Henin will enjoy life away from the court.
“It was just emotional because you see, all of a sudden, it’s such a long period in our lives that we’ve shared together. To see her finish is sad, but also exciting,”Clijsters said.”She has a lot of good things to look forward to.”