Kim Clijsters won singles Title Australian Open 2011 | Kim Clijsters beat Li Na single title Australian Open 2011
Kim Clijsters won singles Title Australian Open 2011: Amid all the talk about the continued absence of Serena Williams from the women’s tour because of injury, one fact has been lost; that Kim Clijsters is the best player in the world. Today, though, it was reconfirmed as the Belgian changed her game-plan midway through the final to pull off a fully deserved 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Li Na of China, a win that gave her a first Australian Open title and a fourth grand slam title in all.
The 27-year-old has now won three of the last six grand slam events, all in an 18-month spell since she returned to the tour after two years of retirement, during which she got married and gave birth to her daughter, Jada. It was also her first grand slam away from New York, where she has triumphed three times, and yet more evidence that when she is at her best, she is the best. Williams, who has won 13 grand slam titles, might disagree but she has not played since Wimbledon last summer and until she returns there can surely be little argument.
As Li’s final backhand flew wide, the Belgian burst into tears on court and threw her arms up in a mixture of celebration and relief. Since her first visit here in 2000, Clijsters has always been a darling of the crowd but if it is possible, she managed to endear herself to them even more when she addressed them after accepting the trophy. “Now I finally feel like you guys can call me Aussie Kim because I won the title,” she said.
“To win it in this way it means a lot. I think it’s that moment that overwhelms you, where your mind has been so focused, I’m fighting for every shot, running a lot of balls down, and it’s finished. That’s what makes it just nice, and I guess this big relief kind of overwhelms you a little bit.”
What made her victory more impressive was that it was not a simple master class in aggressive hitting. After a slow start, when she lost the first eight points and looked a bundle of nerves, Li was actually the more consistent from the baseline and her shots carried more weight.
In the past when things have gone against her, Clijsters has sometimes struggled to find a plan B, continuing to just hammer the ball and hope it comes off. More often than not, it has, but today she had to change things because Li, who was trying to become the first Chinese to win a grand slam singles title, was winning the baseline battle.
Perhaps the knowledge that a live television audience in China estimated to be in the hundreds of millions were cheering her on was an inspiration to Li. Whatever it was, she had Clijsters worried. “She did everything better than me in that first set,” Clijsters said. “Her groundstrokes were heavier, deeper. She served better, she returned better. So I tried to mix it up a little bit, put some slices in, also hit a few higher shots that just made her make some unforced errors. I saw her get a little bit aggravated and just tried to hang in there.”
It worked a treat. Without consistent pace to feed off, Li began to make mistakes and from 3-3 in the second set, Clijsters broke twice to level the match. Li gave herself hope when she recovered an early break in the third but Clijsters then stormed clear and served out with ease to clinch victory.
Li said her first experience of playing in a grand slam final had given her the taste for more. “I think I played great tennis but she just played better than me,” she said. “After the match in the locker room I made the joke that we should only play one set in tennis. But I am still happy what I did today, I am proud for myself.”
Clijsters will climb one spot to No2 when the new rankings are released on Monday and her return to the top is surely only a matter of time, so small is the gap between herself and the No1, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.