american basketball player

Ma Clijsters Continues Hot Play at US Open

NEW YORK –Ma Clijsters took another giant step for motherhood Sunday and moved closer to regaining her women’s singles title at the US Open.

Playing in her first Grand Slam tournament since giving birth to her daughter, Kim Clijsters out-gunned Venus Williams 6-0 0-6 6-4 to advance into the quarterfinals of America’s premier tennis event.

“I’m not trying to get carried away with it all,” Clijsters said of her surprising run into the second week of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. “Just trying to focus on what I have to do because the tournament’s still going. I just want to keep focusing on my tennis without having to worry too much about what’s going on around.”

Two years ago, Clijsters retired from the sport. She got married to an American basketball player and gave birth to their daughter. Earlier this year, she decided she wanted to return to the tennis tour and is playing the US Open for the first time since she captured the title in 2005. She was injured when the 2006 US Open came around, and retired the following year.

This is her third tournament back since retirement, and it’s as if she had never been away. She reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati and the third round in Toronto, losing in the latter to Jelena Jankovic.

“Although I lost to Jankovic, it really helped me a lot knowing that I was capable of taking her to a 5-3 in that third set,” Clijsters said. “That’s where after Toronto I felt like, OK, I feel at this moment I can compete with those best players. … I had a good feeling that I can have a chance against these girls. That’s something that I didn’t have before I went to Cincinnati.”

She was almost perfect in the opening set against the third-seeded Williams, a two-time US Open champion, but the last title coming in 2001. Williams turned the table in the second set, needing only 23 minutes to run through the six games, allowing Clijsters to win just nine points.

“I just said to myself, OK, forget about what happened this last hour,” Clijsters said. “You start from zero and just make sure that you stay aggressive, keep serving well, and it worked.”

The mother broke Williams in the third game of the final set, then held on to hold her own serve for the rest of the match. In the final game, Williams won three of the first four points before Clijsters, pounding the ball deep into the recesses of the court, won the final four points to grab a spot in the quarterfinals.

Clijsters is trying to become the third mother to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era, after two Australians, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong.

Clijsters will next face 18th-seeded Li Na, a 6-2 6-3 winner over Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. Li is the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The other quarterfinal in the bottom of the draw will pit second-seeded Serena Williams against No. 10 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, who staved off six match points before beating No. 7 Vera Zvonareva 3-6 7-6 (6) 6-0.

Williams is 0-6 in her career after losing the first set at love. The last time she lost a 6-0 set at the US Open was in the final in 1997 against Martina Hingis.

Serena Williams began Sunday’s play by crushing Daniela Hantuchova 6-2 6-0, winning the last 10 games of the match.

“I traditionally play well in fourth-round matches,” Serena said. “I want to keep this level, stay focused and play well my next match. I enjoy every moment. I enjoy walking out there and I like to battle.

“I’m blessed to be in this position, to travel the world, play tennis and do something I love every day.”

Third-seeded Rafael Nadal grabbed a fourth-round spot in the men’s singles in an early match, beating Nicolas Almagro 7-5 6-4 6-4.
In other early third-round matches, seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Julien Benneteau 7-6 (4) 6-2 6-4; No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez ousted No. 17 Tomas Berdych 7-5 6-4 6-4; No. 13 Gael Monfils advanced when Jose Acasuso retired with a left knee injury while trailing 6-3 6-4 1-0; No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro beat Daniel Koellerer 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-3; No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero upset No. 9 Gilles Simon, who retired with a right knee injury while trailing 1-6 67-4 7-6 (5) 1-0; and No. 16 Marin Cilic stopped Denis Istomin 6-1 6-4 6-3.

A Long Time Since Clijsters Last Lost At US Open

NEW YORK – The last time Kim Clijsters lost a match on the hard courts of Arthur Ashe Stadium, Roger Federer had yet to win the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

This year, Federer is seeking his sixth straight US Open title. Clijsters is going for her second in a row, yet she’s not the defending women’s singles champion. That honor goes to Serena Williams.

On Wednesday, Clijsters increased her winning match streak at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to nine by eliminating 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli 5-7 6-1 6-2.

“I stayed focused, I stayed aggressive, and really worked out a game plan that beat her today,” Clijsters said. “I think that’s something that’s even more rewarding when you win a match like this.”

Clijsters captured her first Grand Slam singles crown in New York in 2005, then was forced to miss the 2006 US Open when she re-injured her left wrist. In 2007, the Belgium native retired from the sport, married an American basketball player and gave birth to a daughter. Now 26, Clijsters decided to return to the women’s tour earlier this year and is playing in only her third tournament since ending her retirement.

“It was a nice feeling to have in Cincinnati, Toronto, knowing that I was capable of beating some of those top 10 players again,” Clijsters said. “That was a good feeling to have because that was something that I didn’t know what it was going to be like out there playing those girls again.

“But I haven’t played the big ones yet, Venus (Williams), Serena, (Maria) Sharapova, (Elena) Dementieva. I haven’t played those girls yet. Hopefully I’ll give myself a shot at doing that here.”

The last time Clijsters lost on the hard courts in Flushing Meadows was to fellow Belgian Justine Henin in the 2003 title match. She then missed the tournament in 2004 after undergoing surgery on her left wrist. The following year, she finally won a Grand Slam tournament title by beating Mary Pierce in the final of the US Open.
Then came another injury and her retirement.

Bartoli wasn’t the only seeded woman to fell Wednesday.

Fourteenth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo was ousted by Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak 6-4 6-0; Russian Maria Kirilenko eliminated No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-4 2-6 6-4; American Vania King shocked No. 15 Samantha Stosur of Australia 7-5 6-4; and Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium upset No. 20 Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-1 6-3.

Clijsters’ win over Bartoli, while technically an upset, wasn’t unexpected. Clijsters, after all, had been ranked number one in the world in 2003, and despite her inactivity she still has the game to be one of the top players. Plus, she played – and beat – Bartoli in her first tournament back, at Cincinnati where she reached the quarterfinals.

“I think it’s still a bit early for me to say after three weeks how the depth is in women’s tennis,” Clijsters said. “On the other hand, having seen a lot of the results lately I do think that a lot of girls can beat a lot of top players. But I think the consistency is what’s lacking.

“I think the consistency is what makes you a top 10 player these days. You know, we can all play tennis. We can all hit the ball hard. There’s a lot better athletes out there these days in the lower-ranked category.

“But it’s just a matter of consistency. It’s the biggest key. That’s what sets you apart from being a top 10 player or a top 50 or a top 100 player.”

Federer moved a step closer to his sixth straight title with a hard-fought victory over Simon Greul of Germany 6-3 7-5 7-5.
Wednesday saw the final US Open appearance of Marat Safin, a surprise US Open champion in 2000. The Russian, who is retiring after this year, fell to Jurgen Melzer of Austria 1-6 6-4 6-3 6-4.

“It’s the end. It’s the last one,” Safin said. “Could have been better ending, but still OK. I’m looking forwards to afterwards my career, so I have no regrets. And I don’t care about losses anymore.”

Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, who also is retiring after this season, saw it differently.

“I love my sport,” said Santoro, who lost to 24th-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-4 6-3 6-3. “I did it in this life for so many years. I was so happy to be on the court. You can’t do it if you’re not completely in love with your sport.

“Now I’m going to change, and I want to be home. I want to see my friends; I want to spend more time with my daughter. I want to live like normal life.

“But that’s the question: What is a normal life?”