Recently, Long Island Tennis Magazine had the pleasure in taking part in a teleconference with Kim Clijsters who called in her from her native Belgium. Kim discussed many topics including the upcoming BNP Paribas Showdown at MSG and her first matchup against Serena Williams since their infamous U.S. Open Semifinal match.
Kim Clijsters Intro: I am going to the states and I am going to train in New Jersey, where my husband is from, for a few days, and then will be going off to New York to Madison Square Garden. It’s been almost 10 years since I played there. My only time ever I played there was my first championship (Chase Championships), and it’s been 10 years. I am going back there as a mother and this kind of event I think is really special. I really look forward to playing Serena and playing in this environment. Of course, playing at MSG has always been to me one of the highlights of my career. Since I was so young when I played there, and it just blew me off my feet. I was so inspired by going to New York, the city on its own, but also playing in MSG which is so inspirational. I was very disappointed to see the championships leave, but now after knowing that tennis is back here at Madison Square Garden is just so exciting. I am glad that I can be a part of it this year.
Hi Kim ... it was interesting to hear what you had to say about MSG about being an inspirational place for you to play. Can you talk a little bit about what it’s going to be like to play in New York again and especially coming back at this stage of your career? I guess it’s tough to balance tennis and your family life but, I was wondering if you can talk about that and what its going to mean to all of you to play in New York.
Well, like I said before when I was young it inspired me so much. We were used to playing in tennis facilities and tennis arenas, but not like Madison Square Garden. So when I was 15 just playing in Madison Square Garden, I remember I was speechless just walking around the court and looking around the stands and just seeing how much you really practice. It was just so inspirational for me and now to go back so many years later will bring a lot of those childhood memories … I have not been back there even for a concert or anything. So it’s going to be very special to be back there and to be playing in New York City during the winter and playing indoors as well it’s something after so many years playing in the US Open and playing in the heat. You get so used to playing in New York at that time of the year, and the people get kind of used to it as well. I think it’s great we can have the opportunity to play some great tennis on the one night with those four players. I think it is something that just talking to the other players at the Australian Open, they are all excited. It’s a bonus for all of us
What are you doing to prepare for your match with Serena at Tennis Night in America?
The last couple of weeks after returning from Australia, I have really been working on my schedule that I’ve built up with my coach … I’m off to New Jersey on Sunday and I’ll be there for about a week. On Saturday, it is my daughter's second birthday and we’ll celebrate that in the morning and drive to New York and prepare for Serena’s match. It’s exciting and I’ve always enjoyed playing against Serena. We had a really good time playing for Haiti at the Australian Open where we played against each other. It was fun to be in a little more relaxed atmosphere. It was fun to get to know her a little better and personally. It is something I really appreciate and I’m looking forward to it.
It is the rematch of the U.S. Open semifinal, are you expecting a quieter finish this time?
I think it is sad … the match at the US Open we both played an extremely good match I think and it just gets a little overpowered by the ending. It really is something that I really don’t think about anymore. Of course it is something that gets brought up by the media but, I think we are all human and we take what we do very seriously. I’m not saying I agree with what she did but, it happens and it happens in a lot of sports. But, I don’t think about it, I just hope we can play a really good match again and bring the level we both had at the U.S. Open to Madison Square Garden. I think that would be great for both of us.
Did you speak to Serena about the ending of the U.S. Open semifinal?
No more afterwards. We spoke about it obviously at the time at the Open. That was it, nothing more afterwards. I think we left that whole situation behind us and we’ve learned from it. It’s in the past now.
How does playing an exhibition help you prepare?
For me, it helps because I decided not to play Fed Cup after the Australian Open. For me this is actually a perfect scenario I can play a match against the best athlete in the world and just get back into the whole matches again. I think after going out for Fed Cup I think it’s important for me to play in the event. Hopefully, If I win and play another match it will help me before I leave for Indian Wells … something that I’ve felt over the last few months on tour and comparing this career to my past career – in the beginning of my first career … you saw a lot of the players winning their first two or three rounds … it was very easy scoring and that is something that I really felt that I’ve changed that there is a lot of top matches in various tournaments – in the early rounds of tournaments. You really need to be ready to go from the first match onwards. In the past if you weren’t playing well you still needed to play good enough to get through those matches and I think that is something now that the top players need to be aware of. There are a lot of young girls who are out there to beat us that is why I was so glad to have the opportunity to play there. Not just to prepare myself for Indian Wells but also the inspirational side to me is very special.
What happened at the Australian Open in your match against Petrova (which Petrova won)?
It hasn’t really hit me on what happened or what was the reason that I had an off day. There are few things that I can speculate that changed my mood a little bit or my mental preparation. Nothing really changed--I’m very superstitious of my routine and my schedule. Nothing had really changed and that is the frustrating thing about it. If I went out the night before until 4:00 in the morning then ok, I can say I learned and should have been in bed at 10:00 and made sure that I rested but, which wasn’t the case–then I would have an answer on why I was so flat and why I didn’t have any control over my shots or anything. The only explanation I have for it was that I had nothing and that it was very frustrating for me. We all have off days; most of the days happen at practice and it’s not really a big deal. For this event it came down very hard and afterwards it was frustrating. I also didn’t want to leave Melbourne on a negative note so we stayed there for a couple of days and decided to do a couple of fun things with Jada so that I can leave Melbourne kind of on a happier atmosphere. I’m going back there next year and hope to have a better vibe of the whole trip because I played really well in Brisbane. And my first match, I didn’t play my best tennis in Melbourne and a bad match like that you don’t want it to overpower the whole the trip … I really just try to focus on the positive … it’s easier when you get home and you’re in your normal environment and go back into your routine of practicing hard and you don’t really think about it as much afterwards. It’s when you step back on the court, I’m sure. It’s something that has a big impact especially because I wanted to do well there.
After your loss to Petrova, does Tennis Night in America help you regain focus as opposed to going to a tour level event?
To me it doesn’t really matter–if I wasn’t able to play in the BNP Paribas Billie Jean King Cup, I would have gone to Indian Wells without any matches, but it’s perfect for me to play in a match like this. I’m still going to take it serious and I want to win but, there is a little bit more of a different vibe, it’s kind of a happy atmosphere when you’re out on court and it’s not as serious when you play the Grand Slam. You still really want to win but it’s a little bit more fun. I’m not saying my normal matches aren’t fun but, it’s just a little bit more fun. It’s fun to be in a small group like that as well it just makes that atmosphere more special.