Kim Clijsters's balancing act
If the tour's young players have difficulty relating to the Williams sisters, so adept at balancing tennis against off-court pursuits, imagine their take on
She showed up at the U.S. Open with defending-champion status and a hip injury, but revealed few hints of either. Her No. 1 priority was getting her 2 ½-year-old daughter,
Oh, and she might be the best player in the field. There hasn't been one sign to the contrary over her first two matches.
The more you think about Clijsters' balancing act, and the mood of utter calm surrounding it, the more remarkable it becomes. She has always been a player taken largely for granted, especially when compared to the turbulent career of her Belgian countrywoman,
Through the measured tone of her comments -- spoken in perfect English, her second language -- Clijsters is internally driven, with much to prove to herself. She took everyone by surprise when she won the 2005 Open (her first major title), and when it came to finishing off Serena in last year's semifinals, the pressure was off once Serena staged her lamentable meltdown.
Is pressure still a factor? Some would make that claim. In the wake of a thrilling victory over Henin at the Brisbane tournament in January, Clijsters took what she called a "horrible" 6-0, 6-1 loss to
Sometimes, it seems, Clijsters' game just vanishes. That's always a monumental stroke of fortune for her opponent, for an in-form Clijsters might be the best pure ball-striker on tour, and she hasn't lost a trace of her quickness. With so many players showing hints of vulnerability, Clijsters stands as the tournament favorite if that dodgy hip doesn't come back into play.
It's a time for everyone to stop and consider: Clijsters is enviably blissful as a wife and mother, announcing her hopes to have a second child, yet she's in position to be
What a contrast at Ashe Stadium Wednesday night:
If you have access to both ESPN and the Tennis Channel, it's best to watch both broadcasts (some of it on tape, obviously) if you have the time. ESPN comes strong with