Post-baby Clijsters fitter than ever

2011-01-20 09:04

Australian Open favourite Kim Clijsters warned her rivals that she was fitter now than when she reached world number one aged 20, way back in 2003, despite a long break to have a baby.

The third seeded Belgian made the comments after barging past Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3 to reach the third round at Melbourne Park, following her 6-0, 6-0 demolition of Dinara Safina.

Suarez Navarro reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park in 2009, defeating Venus Williams along the way, but she had no answer to Clijsters, now 27 and with a two-year-old daughter, Jada.

The US Open champion conceded just four points on her own serve as she wrapped up the opener in only 22 minutes. She then broke Suarez Navarro twice more to open up a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard finally broke back for 1-3.

But the Belgian was never seriously threatened and comfortably held on for the win in 62 minutes.

Clijsters said she had changed the way she played since she came back to tennis in mid-2009 following her career-break.

“What I’ve been doing really well is playing inside of the court,” she said. “Whenever I feel that I can step forward from there, I do that as well.”

She said that she now looked for opportunities to finish off a point early rather than settling in for a long rally.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunities in the beginning of the rallies where you can really step forward and kind of dictate and put your opponent under pressure,” Clijsters said.

“I think that’s something I’ve been doing pretty well over these last few months. I’ve been moving well, at times I’ve been serving pretty good as well.”

And she said she could now play differently because she was fitter.

“I was not as fit as I am now. In the past I felt I needed to retrieve a little bit,” Clijsters said.

“I feel comfortable out there now. I’m strong enough to still be aggressive from even a little bit further behind the baseline.

“But now I think if I can use that power, being a metre closer to the baseline, I think it has a bigger effect on the way the shots go to my opponents.

“I think it has a bigger effect on their side of the court.”

Clijsters said she had to adapt her game to play Suarez Navarro, who relies on craft rather than power to construct a point.

“She’s a tough player, I’ve practised with her before and she’s very tricky,” Clijsters said.

“The balls bounce differently so you have to move your feet a lot more.”?


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