An Interview With: Kim Clijsters (after her US Open semi-final 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Venus Williams)
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Could you talk about the backhand topspin lob and your decision to hit that shot there?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Um, I mean, I thought as long as I try, keep trying, I’ll have to make one. Because I think all of the ones I tried before she got to, so I think there were two there that were really important, which was the one where, the one she got to, the one that dropped in and I finished off with the forehand winner down the line. Then the next one was obviously the probably most important one where I broke. Yeah, I mean, you know, I don’t know. I mean, it’s instinct when you decide to do that, and it worked. I mean, it worked. It was an important point, and I’m happy to get through.
Q. Were you thinking about the wind on that shot? Were you thinking it might sit up in the wind a little bit?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, and you can also put a little bit more behind it, because I was hitting against the wind at that time. You can really hit a little bit more a little harder than I would usually do, and little flatter, as well. Normally I would like to hit it with more topspin, but here I could just really hit it up and even a little flatter than what I would probably do if there was no wind.
Q. It was such a roller coaster. You’re up 5 2 in the second, and then she storms back; 4 2 in the third, and she storms back. What’s going through your head as…
KIM CLIJSTERS: Was I up 5 2 in the second?
Q. You were up in the second, right, when she came back?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, but not 5 2.
Q. 5 3. I will check my notes.
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. 5 3, maybe.
Q. You were up a break. You were up 5 2.
KIM CLIJSTERS: You’re right. (Laughter.)
Q. So I guess you were thinking…
KIM CLIJSTERS: I guess I wasn’t thinking. There’s my answer. I wasn’t thinking about the score, obviously. It was a lot tougher to serve on this side of the court, so, you know, I was obviously I’m happy to hold my serve on this side of the court, because I was seeing the ball well on my return games. I felt I could really put more pressure on my return games when she was on that side. So as long as I felt that I could hold, which wasn’t the case at 4 All, but I was able to break her on the easier service side. So that was the big game there, and I think that’s probably, to me, where, okay, I gave myself the game to finish it off, which was a lot easier on that side of the court.
Q. Can you remember a more challenging Grand Slam in terms of conditions, wind?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No, I don’t think so. Obviously — um, not wind wise. No, I don’t think so. But obviously there’s heat. You know, in Australia, I mean, you play some really tough matches, but now these days they close the roof and it’s really hard. So you don’t deal with it that much. So, no, I think the conditions have been really tough. I think that’s why I was very happy with the level that we played today.
Q. How hard is it to fine tune your game every two games? You cross the net and you have to make fine changes in what you do with the ball.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, obviously when you hit with the wind you have to just put a little bit you’re able to just kind of let that arm flow a little bit more where you have to hit with more spin. That’s what I was trying to do. Obviously if you can just go to the lines a little bit, even if it’s with more spin, the impact on your opponent is, you know, a lot tougher than it is when you’re hitting against the wind. So against the wind you just try to hit a little lower over the net, hit it flat, and you can just kind of go for it a little bit more, really go all out and kind of wind up your rotation and just kind of swing from there. That’s what I was able to do.
Q. Takes away the instinct from a player. You can’t just react. You have to factor in what you’ve already made your mind up, the way the wind is blowing, think about it.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, the hard thing, too, was I think the wind wasn’t just coming from the back of the court to the front. It was kind of coming sideways. That’s tough moving wise, as well. You kind of just have to always be on your tippy toes and make sure that you adjust and even step forward, step backwards. That’s never that easy. But I mean, I felt that I was hitting well with the wind. I felt that I was, you know, making her move around well. I think that’s what I was really trying to focus on.
Q. How do you feel to be in the finals again? What does it mean that you had to get through Venus Williams?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Um, I mean, it obviously means a lot to be in the final and to give myself a chance to defend my title from last year. It’s a great opportunity. But, um, obviously beating Venus here last year and this year, it’s a good feeling knowing that — you know, I think today was probably one of the best matches that I’ve played throughout the tournament. So, you know, I was able to raise my level, and that’s probably what I’m most pleased about, is obviously that I was able to win a close match like this, but that I was able to kind of rise on the occasion when I had to.
Q. Last year your run here was unexpected and incredibly sweet. What is it this year?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I always feel good here, so I know that if I play good tennis and if, you know, I can give myself an opportunity to get into that second week and play those big matches I mean, this is where I’ve played some of the best tennis that I’ve ever played. So if I can give myself those opportunities to play these kind of matches and not get, you know, surprised by opponents in the beginning of the tournament, you know, anything is possible. But what we call this year, I don’t know. I’m sure you guys will make up something. (Laughter.)
Q. What are your memories from your first match against her back in ’01, and how different of a player are you?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Venus or Zvonareva?
Q. Against Venus.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Venus. In ’01?
Q. You were taped up, I remember.
KIM CLIJSTERS: Oh, really? I don’t even remember that. Obviously, I mean, the thing is when I was younger, almost 10 years younger, the impact of the powerful strokes was something that was a lot more powerful at the time obviously because we weren’t used to that. I played juniors when I was 13, 14. So then all of a sudden you’re playing against Venus, Serena, you know, big girls. And girls — even Lindsay Davenport, those kind of players. The level is so different and the way they hit their strokes. So that was probably my biggest surprise or the biggest change that I noticed from when I came on tour, was how hard they hit it. You know, they still had moments in there where they made some unforced errors because they sometimes like to go for too much as well. But at that time I wasn’t able to deal with it because it was just kind of overwhelming. Now, you know, obviously I’ve become stronger since then physically, and you learn how to deal with them. We’ve played, I don’t know what they said, 12 times or 13 times now. You obviously know and you get to know your opponents, as well. So that always helps.
Q. You have such a great record at night here. You talked earlier in the week about it being a different atmosphere. But how do those differences play into your game, your personality, or whatever?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Well, to me, what I like the most is that I see well. I see a lot better, obviously. You don’t have to worry with the sun on one side or, you know, interfering with, you know, serves or… So that’s something that you can just — the blue, it’s a good blue. You can the yellow stands out well, and I think that’s something to me that, yeah, I enjoy that more. I can just really focus on the ball a lot better. So that’s something that obviously is an advantage for me, I think. Yeah, and the night matches, too. They’re special. The crowd gets into it. Even tonight, I know it wasn’t planned as a night match, but it ended up almost being one under the lights and everything. It’s fun, and to have the crowd, you know, into it and the support, I mean, there’s a different vibe.
Q. Did you feel tired in the third set at all?
KIM CLIJSTERS: No. At one point I’m like — with the wind you don’t even feel like you’re sweating because it just dries up straightaway. I think, you know, my shirt normally is soaking wet. I was like, Oh, I’m like Roger Federer; I don’t sweat. (Laughter.)
Q. Compared to when you retired, do you have perspective? You have a child now; you have a daughter. Do you care or do you care more that you’re competing for this title? Does winning mean as much as before or less?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. Definitely not less. Obviously I think just because of — you know, I know where I came from. You know, I didn’t do anything for a year and a half almost, and just the amount of work that I put in, that’s where I look back to. That’s where, you know — that’s what me personally — that’s where I like to, you know, not compare, but kind of think back, Okay, this is the amount of work that I’ve put in. Still, I like to put in a lot of work. I’m probably not the player who practices the most, but I go by feeling. And if I feel good, then I don’t feel the need to do too much. These last two weeks I’ve probably — my US Open has been completely different these last two weeks than they were last year. Because last year, I mean, I didn’t even come out to the courts a few days in between my matches just because, you know, I was hitting the ball well. I was like, Okay, little crazy. I just wanted to be with Jada and with the family, and it was new. Now, you know, here these last two weeks I’ve been hitting more during off days than I probably would in any Grand Slam just because I never really had that rhythm. So, you know, it’s been a little different in that way. You know, I think in a way, yeah, you care more, because the amount of time that I have put in is different now.
Q. Were you surprised about how much support you got out there? You’re playing an American. Seems to me like you got about 50% of the support.
KIM CLIJSTERS: It’s fun. Obviously, you know, there’s a few people that you focus towards, and they’re always there. You know, obviously it’s my group, the box. But there’s moments when, you know, when it’s close and you really get the crowd into it and there’s big points. I mean, it’s fun. It’s fun to play in these kind of situations. I mean, it’s a lot more fun than playing at 11:00 with half of the stadium full. Obviously this makes you play better, as well.
Q. What are you expecting from Vera tomorrow?
KIM CLIJSTERS: Um, I mean, she’s very tough opponent. Obviously I’ve lost my last two matches against her that we’ve played against each other, so it’s gonna be a tough battle. She’s a player who doesn’t give you much. She’s always there, hangs in there. It’s not that she has a game that’s very unpredictable, but what she does she does extremely well. So it’s going to be a lot different match than it was today, I think, just because, you know, she just, yeah, has a really good backhand. She likes to go for it. She’s been serving a lot better, you know, in the last few months that I’ve seen.
(Source: US Open)