Clijsters' comeback and Open title serve as memorable heart-warmer
NEW YORK -- Social scientists say Danes are the happiest people on earth, and Sunday night's women's championship between Denmark's
"It still seems so surreal," Clijsters said. "In my third tournament back, I won my second Grand Slam. It wasn't the plan. I just wanted to come here and get a feel for it all over again, to play a Grand Slam so I could start next year without having all new experiences. It means the world, and I'm just so glad that I'm able to share it with my husband who wasn't here a few years ago, and with my whole group who is here. And also sharing it with our daughter, of course, is the greatest thing ever."
Clijsters retired in May 2007, citing injuries and the desire to start a family. She married American basketball player
With Clijsters, the tour's Miss Congeniality, and Wozniacki, who hails from the happy land that birthed children's author
The WTA is happy with Clijsters' new life as well. Allaster said the tour had not yet spoken with the player or her manager about marketing her specifically to working moms, but you can bet that campaign is coming. Before the match, Clijsters was tossing a ball (and playing foosball) with her daughter in the players' lounge. Even
Amid the merriment, there were still signs of the discord from the previous evening. Williams was fined $10,000 on Sunday, the maximum on-site fine that can be issued for unsportsmanlike conduct at a Grand Slam tournament. The U.S. Open said in a statement that the Grand Slam committee administrator will "determine if the behavior of Ms. Williams warrants consideration as a major offense for which additional penalties can be imposed." No truth to the rumor that they are also investigating whether there was gambling at Rick's Café.
As a wild card, Clijsters defeated both Williams sisters (she is the only player to defeat the sisters in the same tournament on two different occasions) and two other players seeded in the teens. She will enter the rankings this week in the top 20, and said her immediate plans are to play a tournament in Luxembourg and figure out the rest along the way.
"The goal was not to just come back as a player," said
Verslegers said Clijsters hits the ball faster than when she retired. That is a remarkable achievement, given that Verslegers described her as an "overweight" woman who could barely run 30 minutes at the start of her training in January.
Clijsters broke Wozniacki in the second game of the first set before surrendering four straight games. With brilliant defensive and patient play, Wozniacki frustrated the Belgian, forcing her into 12 unforced errors in the first three games of the set. But Clijsters steadied her nerves in a set that had six breaks and won five of the final six games. She won the second set in a crisp 37 minutes, breaking Wozniacki in the sixth game and never looking back.
Wozniacki, the first Dane to make a Grand Slam final (Denmark ranked as the happiest country in the world, according to the 2008 World Values Survey published by the United States National Science Foundation), is likely to be heard from again. The savvy 19-year-old (she thanked fans in Danish and Polish) is the youngest member of the top 20 and leads the tour with 62 victories this year.
But the night belonged to Clijsters. When she won here in 2005, Clijsters mentioned that her father, Leo, had not made the trip because he had to look after the family's five dogs.
"A lot of people and the press sort of wrote him down and said, That's it, he'll never come back," Clijsters said. "But he came back and he played for the national team again. I think in a way that helped. Those were stories that he told me too."
As it closed on 1 a.m. Monday morning, Clijsters was asked what her response would have been if someone had called her in the hospital after Jada was born and told her that she would win the U.S. Open 18 months later. She smiled.
"I would have definitely hung up the phone on you," she said.