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Clijsters downs Serena Williams

Kim Clijsters of Belgium did what few could in 2002, defeating world No. 1 Serena Williams 7-5, 6-3 here on Monday to capture the prestigious WTA Tour Championships.

Clijsters, seeded fifth in the elite season finale which is open to the top 16 players in the world, posted her first career victory in over Williams, whose eight titles in 2002 included the French

Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Williams suffered just her fifth defeat of the season and saw an 18-match winning streak snapped. As in her previous two matches here, she was hurt by her unforced errors — 44 throughout the 1hr 25min match.

Clijsters (19) captured her fourth title of the year and ninth of her career. She lost just 14 games and didn’t drop a set en route to the $765 000 winner’s prize.

If someone had told her she would beat Williams in straight sets in the final, Clijsters said, ”I wouldn’t have believed him.”

”I just tried to run as many balls back as I could, and she made some easy mistakes.”

Clijsters earned the lone break of the second set in emphatic style, breaking Williams to love. She saved a break point in the next game, and clinched the match on her first match point.

The first set was a back-and-forth affair that featured seven service breaks. Williams broke in the seventh game to lead 4-3 and held in the next game to lead 5-3. But serving for the set at 5-4, Williams was broken — falling behind 0-40 and saving three break points before finally surrendering her serve for 5-5.

”When I was a break down, whenever I lost my service game, I said, just try to win the first point,” Clijsters said. ”I was so focused on the game, I didn’t know if I was up or down.”

Williams appeared poised to force the tiebreaker in the 12th game, leading 40-0 before Clijsters battled back. She gave Clijsters a set point with a double fault and saved it with a service winner before two errors cost her the game and set.

”I didn’t think I was going to lose tonight,” Williams said.

”But I did kind of feel my time winding down, in my legs and my arm and my back … Right now I feel like I’m 98 years old. Everything is broke. I’m ready to go home.”

As the match wore on, Clijsters said, she noticed that Williams ”wasn’t moving as well as she normally does.”

But Williams, who played just 13 tournaments this season and took October off, acknowledged that there were others among the elite field here who perhaps had more cause to plead fatigue.

”I don’t want to take any credit away from Kim,” she said. ”She earned the win. She played pretty good throughout the whole tournament. I don’t think she lost a set.”

Clijsters also became the fourth player to beat both Serena and Venus Williams in the same tournament, and the first since Martina Hingis at the 2001 Australian Open. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario did it at Sydney in 1998, and Steffi Graf did it in Sydney in 1999.

This week, Clijsters advanced to the final when Venus Williams, the world No. 2 and second seed, retired with a strained lower leg while trailing 5-0 in the first set.

Williams, who had been seeking to become the first player since Graf in 1995-96 to defend the Championships title, pocketed $382 000. Had the 21-year-old won, she would have become the first woman player to surpass $4-million in earnings in one year.

”I wish I could have done a little better in this tournament, but, hey, I think I had a decent year,” she said. ”I won three Slams. I guess that’s all right.” – Sapa-AFP

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