On Aug. 15, there was a two sentence "article" in the sports pages of an Australian newspaper.
It read, "The comeback of Belgian Kim Clijsters suffered a major setback last night when she lost to Dinara Safina. Clijsters was soundly beaten 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the WTA event in Cincinnati."
To say I was surprised by these comments would be fair, but disappointed would probably be more accurate.
Yes, Clijsters lost. However, it was in the quarterfinals of her first tournament back after 18 months out of the game, having given birth to her first child. Not to mention, Safina is the No. 1 player in the world.
No one was expecting miracles right away.
What more, consider players she did beat prior to Safina: Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder, and Svetlana Kuznestova. All three have been (or still are) top 10 players, there is a dual Grand Slam Champion, and a Grand Slam finalist.
One would think that if Clijsters wanted to make a full professional comeback, it might take a few months to find match fitness, rhythm, and confidence. Although in her day, Clijsters was a fierce competitor, an excellent ball striker, and one of the best movers on the court, you would expect two years out of action to have an effect.
However, just to show that Cincinnati was no "fluke", she backed it up in Toronto with a win over world No. 8 Victoria Azarenka.
I have to admit that I personally wrote Clijsters off for the U.S. Open, even despite her previous results. In my opinion, there is a massive difference between the pressure of Grand Slam tennis versus "normal" tournament play.
Sets in practice can't emulate the intensity of such matches. Experience is needed.
And, experience is what Clijsters has...plenty of it.
A previous U.S. Open Champion, runner up at the Australian and French Opens, and a Wimbledon semifinalist, Clijsters obviously knows how to compete under pressure in tight and crucial situations.
Again, I am embarrassed to admit—I still didn’t see her progressing far at the U.S. Open, for the reason that she had been out of the game for too long. I saw her as a threat in Grand Slams from the start of next year onwards, but it would take time to make adjustments after such a long absence.
How wrong I was.
Having now reached the quarterfinals after beating Venus Williams in the fourth round is an amazing achievement. Regardless of her results in the tournament hereon in, this is a performance that should be applauded.
It’s not easy spending such a long time out of competition, but added to that fact is she didn’t train and had a baby during this period makes it all the more remarkable.
And, with the other seeds that have fallen so far during the Open, I am going completely against my earlier prediction for Women’s Champion.
I mean, who wouldn’t love to see "Mummy Clijsters" holding the U.S. Open Trophy aloft.
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