Clijsters can thank bad wrist for good form

Kim Clijsters can thank the bad wrist which kept her away from tennis for much of 2004 with helping turn her into a Grand Slam champion on her fifth attempt in a final.

After the weekend’s 6-3, 6-1 hammering of Mary Pierce at the US Open, Belgium’s Clijsters can only reflect on the changes in her life over the past 12 months as she observed last year’s Open from the player box of then-fiancé Lleyton Hewitt with her left wrist in plasters after June surgery.

“I think everything has definitely made me a physically stronger person,” said the 22-year-old who banked a record-setting $2,2-million payday for winning the New York women’s title as well as finishing first in the summer US Open series.

In victory, the always cheerful Clijsters was able to recall her darker days of injury recovery.

“There were a lot of very boring weeks when I was injured, when I was in plaster, trying to recover, and doing all these crazy exercises from starting to move your fingertips.

“They’re very frustrating.”

But after winning her first major after four failed attempts dating to 2001 in Roland Garros against Jennifer Capriati, Clijsters says her wait was worth it.

“You have to be patient. And you can’t do all those things yourself; you have to have your family, your friends to help you, to push you, to go for it.

“It’s not just me, it’s teamwork, I think.”

Clijsters, who announced last month that she will not plan on competing after 2007, may have to revise that career road map.

But for now, her Flemish work ethic will insure that she bears down even harder on the daily exercises she needs to keep her wrist and shoulder in perfect tune.

“There are a lot of things I have to do to be able to play the tennis that I’ve played here over the last few weeks.

“I have to do exercises for my wrist still, for my shoulders, have massages—just everything. And I have to do them all.”

Clijsters heads into the final two months of WTA play with a ranking of at least third after passing Amelie Mauresmo in the standings.
The only two ahead of her are number one Maria Sharapova, whom she beat in the semifinals, and Lindsay Davenport.

“I think I’ve proved that I can do it and that I’m up there with the best of them.”

As for her “early retirement,” Clijsters is not thinking that far into the future as she reflects upon 2005’s sensational run to glory. “I started in Antwerp [February], I started my comeback there. It’s been amazing.

“Winning Indian Wells, Miami [among her six other titles this season] it’s just so hard to believe everything that I’ve done this year.

“It’s the hard work, again. I think it pays off.” - Sapa-DPA

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