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Classy Clijsters

Belgian has yet to win a Slam, still maintains grace

Posted: Wednesday June 29, 2005 2:21PM; Updated: Wednesday June 29, 2005 2:21PM
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Kim Clijsters' run at Wimbledon came to an end with a 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 loss to Lindsay Davenport on Monday.
Simon Bruty/SI

A smattering questions before the Final Four...

Is there a more gracious sportswoman than Kim Clijsters? After losing to Lindsay Davenport, she had this to say: "I felt like I played well and did everything that I could, and it just wasn't good enough at the end."
-- Alex, Sydney, Australia

I'm with you. The less charitable types will point out this level of deference is what's keeping Clijsters from winning big. But for all she's been through over the past year, it's heartening that she's kept this attitude.

You think Kim Clijsters is finally ready to win her first Slam?
-- Sashankh, Chennai, India

The real question is: "Does she think she can win her first Slam?" The game is there and it has been for years. She just needs to ratchet it up in the self-belief department. (And try like hell to avoid those fourth-round matches against Lindsay Davenport.) Clijsters, of course, won both Indian Wells and Key Biscayne and, on that alone, she has to be on the short list of candidates to win the U.S. Open. But she still needs to answer questions about her mental fitness on the biggest stage.

If there were any sort of karmic justice, she would break through. She really deserves it. It's hard, though, to know what to make of a supremely talented player who gags away a set and a break in the late round of the French and then double-faults three times in her final service at Wimbledon.

In response to Kayla Ruth's question slamming Mariano Zabaleta for not playing Wimbledon -- Zabaleta has been injured and missed the entire clay season, post-Monte Carlo. Showing up to play injured for $10,000 isn't worth risking your career.
-- Omar, Tampa, Fla.

Right you are. Kayla's point remains valid, but the example of Zabaleta was both inaccurate and unfair.

A few ruminations: 1) What was up with Joachim Johansson's return game? Fernando Gonzalez served 21 aces, without a single one going faster than 125 mph. That's amazing. I didn't see the match, but was Gonzalez throwing in some wicked curve balls or what? 2) Who wrote the SI blurb stating that Andy Roddick had a tough draw? I saw it here at SI and at ESPN.com. No diss on Rafael Nadal, but on grass, Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt are a whole lot more dangerous, and Tim Henman has ever been a head case on home turf. 3) Sticking with Roddick, what a joy it is to see him wearing something that doesn't look like a psychedelic car wreck. 4) What's going on with Rainer Schuttler and Sjeng Schalken? It wasn't that long ago that both of them were threats on all but the slow stuff. Thanks.
-- Pamela Keith, Washington, D.C.

1) Agreed. Remember this Johansson is the guy who set an ace record against Andre Agassi at the 2005 Aussie Open and not only lost, but lost in four sets! Same, by the way, for Ivo Karlovic. Which leads us to 2) Roddick's big hurdle was a potential second rounder against Karlovic, whom many asserted had a real shot at riding his serve to the title. When Karlovic lost in Round 1, the seas parted. 3) Agreed. At a time when everything is supposed to scream, "Look at me!" I love that Lacoste minimalism. But that's just me. 4) Injuries and age.

By the way, speaking of Karlovic, a lot of you noted that, ironically, all the players who have set the record for aces in a match (Richard Krajicek at the Open; Johansson in Melbourne; Karlovic last week) went on to lose. Maybe I'm missing something but this strikes me as totally logical. If the player is hitting his serve that well and returning with any skill, he's likely to win in straight sets. The mere fact that he has to serve 50 aces, suggests that the other components of his game are failing him. Thus it is not surprising that he is in a vulnerable position.