Vol. 4 Num 77 Tue. August 12, 2003  

Clijsters claims No.1

Belgian Kim Clijsters took over the world's No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career by winning the WTA Los Angeles tournament on Sunday.

Clijsters defeated former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 to capture her 16th career crown and pocket 97,000 dollars in first place prize money.

"I don't know how to feel, I am a bit confused," said Clijsters.

"It is great having my first No. 1 ranking."

Serving to close out the match in the third set, Clijsters jumped out to a 40-15 lead and then took the title when one of Davenport's shots sailed long.

"It is a feeling I can't describe," said Clijsters.

"On the court I had butterflies and goosebumps. This is incredible."

Clijsters said she will cherish this moment for a long time.

"It reflects on the great season I have had so far. I have been able to be No. 1 in doubles and singles now, and no one will ever take that away from me. This is something I will always have on my resume."

The 20-year-old Clijsters, who has reached the semis or better in all 14 tournaments she has played, is having her best season of her career with six singles titles this year.

She supplanted the injured Serena Williams atop the world rankings. Williams will be out of action until after the US Open recovering from knee surgery. Williams had spent 57 weeks as No. 1.

But unlike the other 11 former number ones, Clijsters is the first woman to reach the top spot without have won a Grand Slam tournament. She made it to the semi-finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year.

Clijsters also passed Belgian compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne for most singles titles this year. Henin-Hardenne has five.

Clijsters and Davenport were an equal 6-6 in career matches heading into Sunday's final but Clijsters has now won six of the last seven meetings.

"I started off well and that motivated me to keep going," said Clijsters.

"In second set she played really well.

"Then in third set once I broke her I felt good and I felt like I could move her around. When I saw she was limping I tried to be more aggressive."

Clijsters, who also won two weeks ago in Stanford, California, boosted her record this year to 66-8.

Davenport also knows how it feels to be No. 1. She first reached the position in October 1998 and held it for 37 weeks.

"It is a huge accomplishment, and she earned it," said Davenport.

"I am sure she wants to start winning slam titles."

Clijsters said her boyfriend Lleyton Hewitt was monitoring the progress of her match from Cincinnati where he is getting ready to play in an ATP event.

"He was on the golf course and writing (text) messages to my parents," she said.

Her parents were watching the match on TV from their home in Belgium.

The match was broadcast live to Belgium, where it caused a stir in her hometown of Bree.

"Everyone in Belgium has been watching it. In my town there was a performance, and band or something was playing, and no one showed up," said Clijsters.

Clijsters won the first set easily, breaking Davenport in the second and fourth games then holding serve in the next game to jump out to a 5-0 lead.

Davenport rallied in the second set winning the crucial seventh game to beak a 3-3 tie after Clijsters had battled back from a 3-0 deficit.

After winning the marathon seventh game, Davenport broke Clijsters serve in the eighth game en route to a 6-3 win.

Clijsters took command of the third set in much the same way she did in the first. She grabbed a 3-1 lead and never looked back.

She had five aces and hit 33 winners while Davenport had just three aces, 27 winners and made 36 unforced errors.