Clijsters Survives Match Point, Wins Sydney
Published January 12, 2007 12:00
SYDNEY, Australia - The odds definitely weren't stacked in Kim Clijsters' favor in Sydney on Friday night. Facing a match point against one of the hottest players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, someone who had been ruthless against the Top 10 all week long, it seemed unlikely she'd recover. But the Belgian did just that, rallying back for a 46 76(1) 64 victory over Jelena Jankovic and the Medibank International title.
Clijsters, seeded No.3, found herself on the receiving end of some ferocious hitting early on in the match, going down 64 42 and even facing one match point trailing 5-4 in that second set; but she turned things around with her own brand of power tennis, edging her unseeded opponent in a tie-break and reeling off the first four games of the third set en route to the two-hour, 28-minute win.
"When you're down like that, the only thing you can do is just fight really hard," Clijsters said. "It doesn't matter what the score is. I had the feeling we were both playing really good tennis, and it could go either way. It was just a few points that could change things over. Those are all little details that make a difference. It was definitely a match that I'll remember for a very long time."
"It was an unbelievable match," Jankovic said. "After I lost the second set, I was frustrated with myself; I was thinking, 'Why am I even here? I should have been in the locker room already preparing my stuff, packing my trophy and going to the hotel and I'm still here fighting really like an animal.' But this is the game.
"I thought maybe she was going to be nice because she's going to retire, but she was fighting. She left her heart out there."
This was Clijsters' last visit to the Medibank International, as she has chosen to retire from tennis at the end of this season. But it was nothing less than a happy ending; she leaves with her 34th career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title and lofty expectations for the coming fortnight's Australian Open in Melbourne.
"I never expected to win here and play in a match like this," Clijsters said. "I wouldn't wish for a better goodbye than this one. It was very special. Like I said it's a day I'll remember for a long time. The most important thing now is to not think too far ahead, just focus on things I have to do to make me 100% again."
Despite ultimately coming up with a loss, Jankovic still heads to Melbourne with a confidence level that continues to rise. Earlier in the tournament she notched her seventh and eighth Top 10 wins over Martina Hingis and Amélie Mauresmo, and in reaching the final she extended her 2007 win streak to nine matches. But Friday she was not so lucky, falling to 0-6 lifetime against the former No.1 Clijsters.
"This was a good lesson for me, and I'm ready to go to Melbourne and play there as well as I'm playing now," Jankovic added. "I'll be ready; I'm really motivated to do well in Melbourne. I'm really enjoying my game and having fun out there. But no pressure; I just want to go out on court and give my best. This week I showed I can beat the best players and hopefully I'll join them soon."
Clijsters and Jankovic weren't the only players who overachieved in Sydney. Rising stars Shahar Peer and Li Na both notched Top 10 wins over Patty Schnyder and Elena Dementieva respectively, as did Australia's Nicole Pratt, who downed Dinara Safina in the opening round. And Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Meghann Shaughnessy came through in the doubles draw, the German winning her sixth career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour doubles title and the American capturing her 15th. They downed Marion Bartoli and Meilen Tu in Friday's final, 63 36 76(2).