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Clijsters victorious at WTA Tour

Kim Clijsters won the $3-million WTA Tour Championships on Monday, dominating France’s Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-0 to defend the title she won in Los Angeles last year.

While Clijsters won’t finish the year as world number one — compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne assured herself of that honour just by reaching the semifinals — Clijsters had the satisfaction of wrapping up 2003 with her ninth title of the year.

Despite her lengthy season, which included reaching the semifinals or better in 19 out of 20 WTA Tour events, Clijsters showed no sign of fatigue as she ruthlessly closed out Mauresmo.

Breaking the Belgian in the opening game of the match was the brightest spot for Mauresmo.

She twice double-faulted to give Clijsters set points in the final game of the first set — sending a backhand wide on the second.

Mauresmo, who confidently moved Henin-Hardenne around the court in her semifinal victory over the number one-elect on Sunday night, could make no such inroads against Clijsters.

The Belgian finished things off after 52 minutes when Mauresmo put a backhand into the net.

”It’s always a nice feeling, that you could do whatever you want with the ball,” said Clijsters. ”When you want to go down the line where maybe it is not the right position. But I could feel that I was able to do it. That is always a nice feeling to have.”

As the match progressed, Clijsters said, she just tried to ”keep playing aggressively and not let her get back into the match”.

The ebullient Clijsters even put a positive spin on her failure to hang on to the world number-one ranking. On Tuesday it will go to Henin-Hardenne, who defeated Clijsters in the finals at Roland Garros and the US Open.

”Of course it’s a little disappointing, but at least I got to be number one,” said Clijsters, who was playing in her 15th singles final of the season and claimed her ninth title of 2003. ”And I end the year number two — that’s not too bad.”

Even the Grand Slam defeats don’t rankle, Clijsters insisted.

”I see it in a positive way,” she said. ”I made the finals of two Grand Slams.”

Certainly the $1-million first prize might have taken any sting out of losing the top spot. With it Clijsters surpassed the $4-million mark in season earnings, a first for women’s tennis.

Her winner’s cheque was actually for $1 000 030 — the extra $30 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the WTA Tour.

The Belgian had emerged from round-robin play undefeated, including a three-set win over Mauresmo.

The Frenchwoman, in contrast, had backed into the semifinals when Elena Dementieva rallied from a set and a breakdown in the final Red Group match to knock out Chanda Rubin and let Mauresmo in.

She made good use of the opportunity with her semifinal win over Henin-Hardenne, but on Monday, Mauresmo said, she couldn’t find that level of energy.

”I was feeling really tired last night,” she said. ”I wasn’t able to come back and perform as I did in earlier matches.”

In the immediate aftermath of the match, Mauresmo was still trying to puzzle out how much of the outcome was due to Clijsters’s performance and how much to her own inability to perform.

”It was both,” she said. ”I think she played a good game. She wasn’t making any mistakes, and I helped her by making a lot.”

Clijsters had a chance to make it two titles in one day, but she and partner Ai Sugiyama of Japan fell to Argentina’s Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain.

Suarez and Ruano Pascual, who reached all four Grand Slam doubles finals this year, won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to earn a measure of revenge for their losses to Clijsters and Sugiyama in the finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. — Sapa-AFP

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