consecutive victory

Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open

NEW YORK – Kim Clijsters may be like a bull in a china shop, crashing through the US Open party, but she no longer feels like an elephant.

Three months after giving birth to her daughter, Clijsters, then retired, went onto a tennis court to hit with a friend and former player, Caroline Maze.

Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open
Clijsters Crashing Party at US Open

“That was a big mistake because I was so frustrated after that,” Clijsters remembered. “Because in my mind I still knew how to step forward, step back, move to the side. But the connection from the brain to the body wasn’t really – there was nothing there.

“So I had a good feeling when the ball was coming towards me, but just moving was absolutely terrible. I felt like an elephant sometimes just trying to move.”

Playing in her third tournament since ending a two-year retirement, Clijsters is moving just perfectly, thank you. With an easy 6-2 6-4 victory Tuesday over China’s Li Na, Clijsters grabbed a spot in the women’s semifinals with her 12th consecutive victory on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Her next hurdle will be defending champion Serena Williams, who advanced with a 6-4 6-3 victory over 10th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy.

“She’s a really good player,” Williams said of Clijsters. “She plays tough. She plays hard. Now it’s like a totally different level because shed has absolutely nothing to lose. … I think that’s when you can play your ultimate best tennis.”

In men’s fourth-round play Tuesday, 16th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia shocked No. 2 Andy Murray of Great Britain 7-5 6-2 6-2; No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina brushed aside No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-3 6-3 6-3; No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile knocked off No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 3-6 6-3 7-6 (3) 6-4; and third-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain stopped No. 13 Gael Monfils of France 6-7 (3) 6-3 6-1 6-3.

The last time Clijsters played in the US Open, in 2005, she won the women’s singles, beating Mary Pierce of France. Injuries and then retirement, marriage and motherhood kept her away from New York until this year.

She also didn’t play here in 2004 because of injuries. The last time she lost at Flushing Meadows was to fellow Belgian Justine Henin in the 2003 championship match.

Not even Clijsters could imagine her implausible run to the US Open semifinals when she decided to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. But she surprised even herself by her success in tournaments at Cincinnati and Toronto leading up to the year’s final Grand Slam event.

“I definitely didn’t have that idea, you know, or that thought in my head now,” she said. “But like I said before, something switched with me after Toronto where I felt like, OK, I can, you know, compete with these girls. Because that was obviously a big question in my mind.

“So I am surprised that I’m sitting here talking to you right now, but I’m very happy and, you know, flattered that I get to do that.”
Because of her time away from the tour, Clijsters will have no computer ranking until after her third tournament back – the US Open. She was given a wild card into the tournament and has become the first unseeded player to reach the semifinals at Flushing Meadows since Elena Dementieva in 2000.

Li, China’s top player, wasn’t surprised by the play of the Belgian right-hander.

“I saw her when she came back in her first tournament,” Li said. “I knew she was at a high level. She’s much stronger than other girls, so I knew if she was going to come back it must be a strong comeback.”

It was much too strong for Li, who did break Clijsters’s serve to knot the score 4-4 in the second set. But Li then made four unforced errors and Clijsters quickly wrapped up the victory and a spot in the semifinals.

She is attempting to become the third mother to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era, behind Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong. At the age of 26, Clijsters was the youngest of the four quarterfinalists in the bottom half of the draw: Li, Williams and Flavia Pennetta are all 27.

In the top half, Kateryna Bondarenko, at 23, is joined by two 19-year-olds, Caroline Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer, and 17-year-old Melanie Oudin. They play their quarterfinal matches on Wednesday.

“You don’t really think about the age or anything,” said Clijsters, the mother of 18-month-old Jada. “Unless like now that I’m older I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, they’re young.’ … They look at things in a different way when they get to a Grand Slam because it’s so new.

“That’s something I think in the beginning is really good for them. But I think as they progress and they make a name on tour, I think that that will change. The pressure will gradually start to build in a little bit.

“But, you know, it’s great what they’re doing here. It’s fun to watch for me, as well.”

USTA Pays Tribute To Pancho Gonzalez

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 2, 2009 – The USTA announced today that actor Benjamin Bratt will host a tribute to former U.S. Championships winner Pancho Gonzalez on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the Night Session on Saturday, September 5.  The tribute will celebrate Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships, and members of the Gonzalez family as well as a number of former players and Hispanic community leaders will be in attendance.

Gonzalez, who taught himself how to play tennis at the age of 12, was considered one of the most talented tennis players of his generation and was a fan favorite on the professional tour throughout the 1950s and 60s.  Early in his career, which spanned four decades, he won back-to-back titles at the U.S. Championships in Forest Hills, N.Y. at the ages of 20 and 21.  He also won two matches to help the U.S. defeat Australia to capture the 1949 Davis Cup title.  His passion and intensity led to an illustrious career as the world No. 1 for an unequaled eight years.  As a 40-year-old in 1968, he reached the semifinals at Roland Garros and the quarterfinals of the inaugural US Open.  The following year, Gonzalez played Charlie Pasarell at Wimbledon in a five-hour match that spanned two days and led to the advent of the tie-break.  Gonzalez also became the oldest player to ever win a professional tournament when he won the Des Moines Open just shy of his 44th birthday.  Gonzalez was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame while still an active player in 1968.

“The USTA is proud to celebrate the life and legacy of such a great champion as Pancho Gonzalez,” said Lucy Garvin, President and Chairman of the Board, USTA.  “Pancho was a true pioneer in the sport of tennis and this tribute will shed light on the importance of Pancho Gonzalez to the game and its history.”

“Pancho Gonzalez was a trailblazer, not only in tennis, but across the greater American cultural landscape,” said Bratt.  “He was a role model for a generation of Hispanic-Americans, and this tribute will rightly call attention to his important and lasting legacy.  I’m proud to be a part of this celebration to honor a true legend.”

Members of the Gonzalez family will be in attendance, along with students from the Pancho Gonzalez TennisAcademy in Washington, D.C., one of whom will conduct the pre-match coin toss.

Hispanic dignitaries attending include:

  • Benjamin Bratt, actor
  • Lynda Baquero, NBC4 New York
  • Dr. Jane Delgado, CEO, National Alliance for Hispanic Health
  • Tim Garcia, judge, New Mexico
  • Danny Haro, producer/director, 2006 Pancho Gonzalez Documentary
  • Augustin Martinez, President, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Martha Montoya, President, Los Kitos Entertainment
  • Charlie Pasarell, former tennis champion
  • Bobby Perez, former tennis champion
  • Tony Plana, actor
  • John Quiñones, ABC Primetime
  • Alfred Rascon, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
  • Pancho Segura (“Little Pancho”), former tennis champion
  • Jimmy Smits, actor
  • Andrew Valdez, judge, Utah
  • Eduardo Xol, TV personality
  • Al Zapanta, CEO, U.S. – Mexico Chamber of Commerce

The 2009 US Open will mark the culmination of the Olympus US Open Series, the six-week summer tennis season linking all major ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournaments in North America to the US Open.  The US Open is the highest-attended annual sporting event in the world.  In 2008, Roger Federer won his fifth consecutive US Open title, defeating Andy Murray in the final.  In the women’s singles final, Serena Williams defeated Jelena Jankovic to capture her third career US Open title.

The 2009 US Open will be held Monday, August 31, through Sunday, September 13.  Tickets for the 2009 US Open can be purchased four ways:  1) at USOpen.org; 2) by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866-OPEN-TIX; 3) at all Ticketmaster outlets; or 4) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center box office.  American Express is the Official Card of the US Open.