Clijsters Knocking Wozniacki from No. 1 Imminent in 2011: OPINION
by Jeremy Davis | January 13th, 2011, 3:27 pm

Kim Clijsters retired from the WTA tour to have a baby, but found her love for the game of tennis and the competition was too much to stay away from. Now after roughly 1-1/2 years back she is staring down re-claiming the No. 1 ranking. Inspirational, or a sad snapshot of the state of women’s tennis, or both?
On Thursday in the Sydney semifinals the Belgian gutted out a three-set win over the hard-hitting young Russian Alisa Kleybanova 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(1). Now if she beats China’s Li Na in the final, she will move from No. 3 to No. 2 on the WTA Rankings, overtaking Vera Zvonareva.

With Venus and Serena Williams perpetually suffering injuries, current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki struggling with a racquet switch, Justine Henin still dealing with an elbow injury, and former No. 1s Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina, Maria Sharapova and the rest floundering, how long will it be until the veteran Clijsters reclaims her seemingly rightful place atop the rankings?

Not long.

Kleybanova, who plays a thumping Lindsay Davenport-type baseline game, is a bad match-up for Clijsters. She is one of the few players (like the Williams sisters in their prime) who can hit Clijsters off a court. Kleybanova beat Clijsters in their only previous meeting, but on Thursday the Belgian kept her composure from a set down. This was an element that was frequently missing from her fighting arsenal in her more mentally fragile pre-retirement days.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” said Clijsters, who was twice a break down in the third. “I’m pleased with the way I finished. It probably wasn’t my best tennis, but I worked hard for it, and that’s a big part of preparation — if you’re not able to play your own game or the way you like to play, you have to work your way through points and matches. You can get a lot out of a match like this.”

Yes, you can get a lot out of winning on your worst days. Especially when you’re seeing your fellow seeded compatriots dropping like flies. Did everyone have a few too many helpings and cocktails during the holidays rather than hitting the practice courts? This has got to be one of the worst pre-Aussie years for the women ever.

Pencil in Clijsters as the Sydney champion and the new No. 2. In fact, use a pen. Clijsters is 4-1 career head-to-head against Li, beating her most recently in straights at the 2009 US Open. Clijsters is 40-17 in career finals, Li 3-4.

Wozniacki was ranked No. 4 when she lost to Li in the fourth round at last year’s Australian Open. Clijsters lost in the third round in a 6-0, 6-1 collapse against Nadia Petrova. I’m not good at math, so I don’t know if Clijsters will have the chance to grab No. 1 from Wozniacki during the Australian Open in the coming two weeks.

Wozniacki is a paper No. 1, and cannot beat the biggest guns in the game in the form of Clijsters (0-2 career head to head), Serena Williams (0-2), and Venus Williams (0-4). Everyone else is a level below at the Grand Slams, the level the Woz will soon join. I predict she will lose pre-quarterfinals this year in Melbourne. For Woz fans (me included), hopefully she can regain her game, since she is great for the game: easy on the eyes, well spoken and someone who makes do with what she has in the terms of her on-court approach.

But if not in January, then by the end of the Indian Wells-Miami events watch Clijsters back atop the rankings.

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32 Comments for Clijsters Knocking Wozniacki from No. 1 Imminent in 2011: OPINION

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Its all just passing time for Serena to return. The women’s game is pathetic. Unfortunately, it casts a pall over Serena’s dominance because since Justine’s (first) retirement, she really has been playing in a vacuum.

Truth squad Says:

Clijsters is more than strong enough to lead the tour and challenge Serena for majors (except Wimbledon). How odd that 20 years after Chris and Martina ruled the game, we once again have the 2 dominant powers in Women’s tennis in their late 20’s and continuing perhaps into their early 30’s. Not hard to see Serena and Kim trade majors for the next couple of years, with only an occasional upset (at the French).

Forhand_lob Says:

I think you’re mischaracterizing Clijster’s pre-retirement days. She specifically had a Henin and Williams sisters problem; she didn’t generally show mental fragility to others.

sissi Says:

I really want to see if that belgian can win something other than three us opens. Witl all the mass media kissing her ass everytime and her daughter’s by the way, not that i complain, people tend to forget she has a ridiculous 3 Us opens on her pedigree and was THRASHED at last year’s aussie.But wait she’s miss congeniality, the media will throw excuses after everyone of her pathetic defeats.Good luck for her though, I’m waiting for Henin and Serena to step up and take their rightful place.

diteraka Says:

Yeah you’re right Sissi, people talk about that Clijsters as if she was the second coming of christ.Yeah she’s good but hearing them talk, you’d think she’s some legend or something.
By the way, go Maria Sharapova

Melanie Says:

i don’t think Clijsters will win, Henin will

Gregoire Gentil Says:

Serena, Serena, … you have only this word in your mouth ;-) Williams are the past. Both sisters might be out of the top ten by the year end. One doesn’t play, one doesn’t get point, one is out of top-10 – ask Del Potro to get confirmation. Future will tell if I’m right or not.

@Tennis Vagabond: Though I have great admiration for men’s tennis and Federer/Nadal, from a certain point of view, Australian open for women is much more exciting than men. Who will bet against a Nadal/Federer finale? Nobody. Who will be against a Wozniacki/Clijsters finale? Everybody.

RZ Says:

Here’s Kim’s record against some of the above-mentioned players.

Clijsters vs. Venus Williams: 7-6
Clijsters vs. Serena William: 2-7
Clijsters vs. Justine Henin: 13-12

Seems to me that she is evenly matched with Venus and Justine (though in the past Justine had the better of her in GS finals), though she has some work to do to beat Serena consistently.

diteraka Says:

Like she can’t win when ranked 81st in AO 2007? What a joke this guy is
I agree with you @Sissi, when people talk about Clijsters, it’s like she is the second coming of christ. Give me a break, all she has been able to win this far in that career of hers is a tiny 3 Us opens? She is NOT a legend by any means and is one surface-specialist. I see truth will hurt her fanatics.
btw go sharapova

diteraka Says:

lol i thought my first message didn’t come through lol

Thangs Says:

Henin is gonna rule again..

Kimmi Says:

have you guys seen the draw?


sar Says:

Well once again Nole gets Fed and Roddick and Troicki. Fixed draw.

dari Says:

i didn’t see it live, but i see it now!
murray nadal quarter like last year!
we will have to see how everyone is playing, but at this point, rafa’s road looks tougher. nobody likes to see isner, murray nadal is always close, soderling is playing great right now.
but djoko is looking excellent right now, too. monfils is a lot of people’s sleeper, and if berdych plays as well as he did for a stretch last year…

Kimmi Says:

muzza on soda side! sigh!

Kimmi Says:

murray on soderling qtr dari. not nadal qtr. i m sure nadal is breathing a sigh of relief.

dari Says:

oh, i got too far ahead!

Kimmi Says:

eeeeeek simon could meet federer in the second round. he has a 2-0 h2h with fed!

dari Says:

well then, draw doesn’t look so bad for rafa… ferrer quarter.

dari Says:

i saw the simon, kimmi, but simon isn’t what he used to be, ya know? still something to look out for.

dari Says:

why are people not wigging out? the draw is out!@#!

Kimmi Says:

tough first few rounds for fed. isnt lacko the guy who bagelled rafa in doha? well, fed get him for the first round.

Kimmi Says:

i am surprised too dar..its very quiet here!

Anyways. nalby beats almagro in auckland convincingly. go nalby all the way. and then go for assault at the AO.

Kimmi Says:

where did delpo land?

dunbar Says:

As always, so far as I can see, Nadal has an extraordinarily easy draw. Probably Ferrer or yesterday’s man Nalby in quarters – essentially nothing up to then. Federer has next easiest – trickyish early ones, but hardly alarming – and for quarters, Roddick/Monfils/Wawrinka: much more difficult prospects than for Nadal imo.

Murray has it tough: possible Melzer before Sod in the quarters. Also tough for Sod – possible Gulbis/Tsonga before Murray.

Djokovic – possible Troicki on the way to Berd/Davy in quarters. D’s draw tougher than Fed’s or Nadal’s but marginally easier than Murray or Sod.

Semis – hard for anyone.

Fed definitely can’t complain – but the key is Nadal: once again, a very easy draw at least on paper which, if he has any lingering effects of flue, is obviouly just what the doctor ordered. Furthermore, he should be far more rested by semi than winner of Murray/Sod.

The whole thing set up for Nadal/Fed final, although of course Djokovic could turn that upside down.

dunbar Says:

Kimmi, Delpo would (likely) have to beat Baggy then Melzer before meeting Murray. Perhaps wrongly, I didn’t really consider him – think it’s too early. Health permitting, he’ll be a contender in the French.

Kimmi Says:

IF..big IF nalbandian gets to the qtr, he could be tough for nadal.

hope muzza gets out of his qtr. its really tough one that qtr.

davydenko, in djokovic qtr. nadal must be breathing another sigh of relief.

skeezerweezer Says:

No need to panic gang, there is a reason for getting a #1 and #2 seed, etc. You are suppose to get the privileged draw, to an extent, no?

Here is a first shot analysis of the draw from the reputable news source “Routers”

( Note the photo of Rafa )

Interesting match ups if they meet

Stanislas Wawrinka v (12) Gael Monfils

Troiki vs Novak

(16) Mardy Fish v (18) Sam Querrey

(23) Nikolay Davydenko v (9) Fernando Verdasco


dari Says:

i’m gonna stay confident, but with one eye open, i’m not worried about roger’s draw for the most part. i’m really confident in his recent form, especially against the specific players in his quarter and half.
he played so well against davydenko, he’s got roddick’s number, and i think he has berdych off his back. (not to mention berdych isn’t what he was last spring/summer).
he’s not gonna let gael get him in a best of 5-sets. maybe keep an eye open on his fellow swiss?
sure novak can end it all for roger, but we have a while to go for that…
once rafa gets out of his first few rounds, he may see isner, who is not impressing right now, but always dangerous. nalbandian seems to be doing well in auckland, and is always someone to look out for, but really, whoever comes out of that second quarter seems kinda scary for him, murray or soderling.
ay yay yay.
my mind may be playing tricks on me, making things harder for rafa than they seem, guess i am trying to plant the seed of doubt!

dunbar Says:

well, I find the reuters man’s view peculiar – “rocky path” for Nadal. What rocky path? Lopez or Isner. Oh, come on. And then may be Cilic. But Cilic has done nothing for yonks, dunno what’s happened to him, but whatever it is, it’s nothing going to cause Nadal to lose 5 seconds sleep. As for Nalby,even if he gets to quarters, he’s not the force he was. Yes, Skeezer, I take your point – but some things are genuinely random, e.g. Nadal’s ranking did not protect him from a possible meeting with Davydenko – good old fashionned luck did.

Talking of Davy, an encounter with Nishikori looks tasty. And yes, if Verdasco is firing again, Davy/Verdasco.

Kimberly Says:

The Murray soderling quarter is the worst. Totally loaded. No other way to spin it.

Andrew Broad Says:

When I am king, you will be first against the wall
With your opinion, which is of no consequence at all

(Sorry – I’m listening to Radiohead at the moment.)

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