Jan. 26 • In Melbourne, Kim has now reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, after defeating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3 7-6(4).
Kim Clijsters is a happy person. A happy bubbly person with blonde curls that seem to spring in time with her smile. Rumour has it, her daughter Jada is just the same. A slightly smaller ray of sunshine. But Kim C does not like to be pushed around. And when she is pushed around, she becomes quite terrifying. If Todd Woodbridge thought she was looking grumpy the other day, he hasn't seen anything.
Things started exactly according to the Clijsters plan in the first set of her quarterfinal clash against steady Pole Agnieszka Radwanska. Kimmy may have come out with her left leg strapped, but then, ' wham bam' broke Radwanska in the opening game. But Radwanska, who has had a miraculous run here at Australian Open 2011 despite undergoing surgery at the end of last year, had other ideas. She broke Kim back, and thence commenced a ding dong of service breaks.
Radwanska, who is best buds with world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, possesses one particular weapon that Kim did not like at all. Her ability to scrabble and scamper after every ball, in a very Andy Murray-esque way. The US Open champ, skipping into her forehand and giving the ball a good old welt, saw the ball come back time and time again when it should have been long gone.Having been 4-1 up in the first set, Kim found her lead reduced to 4-3, later admitting that her legs had felt heavy as the Australia Day planes flew over Rod Laver Arena. But although Radwanska had rallied, it was too late to save the first set, Kim taking it 6-3. You could almost see her let out a sigh of relief.
And so with 12 winners and 13 unforced errors, Kim again tried to put her stamp on the match in the second set. Holding serve to kick it off, she made her move in the sixth game, breaking the Radwanska serve to go 4-2 up. No more being pushed around. But Radwanksa pushed back. Taking advantage of the US Open champion's fourth double fault of the match, the Pole took the break back, and then converted her eighth break point of the match to break again and serve for the set.
But it was then that Kim clicked into gear. Battering forehand after forehand to take her tally of winners past the 40 mark, she saw three break back points come and go before finally converting the fourth, and spinning the bottle right back to Radwanska.
Into a second set tiebreak, this time, it worked. Radwanska looked rattled as she survived barrage after barrage, and after just over an hour and a half, Kim converted her first match point to win the tiebreak and the match, 6-3, 7-6(4).
'I fought well and stayed really focused, tried not to lose too much energy on getting frustrated and things like that', said Kim. 'So, yeah. I mean, got close in that second set. I felt that there were a few things I did really well, but there were also a few things that I just, you know, my own feeling, I just didn't feel quite right every time out there. There were rallies where I felt good, I was hitting the ball; there were rallies when I didn't feel right in the position where I should be at.'
Everything has to be better. I mean, serving, returning, the unforced errors. Everything has to be better. But, you know, I'm in the semifinals and you know, I don't feel like I've played my best tennis probably. So it's a good thing. I feel that I'm hanging in there, working hard, you know, to win my points. Sometimes that's probably even more of an achievement than winning your matches very easily.'
It wasn't pretty, it wasn't smiley, but Kim got what she wanted in the end: her first appearance in a Melbourne Park semifinal since 2007, and her sixth in total. She lost to Maria Sharapova that year. Four years later, it will be up to Vera Zvonareva to halt the Mother Superior's march to another Grand Slam final.
'It will be tough. There will be a lot of rallies, long rallies I think. But I've always enjoyed playing my matches against her. They've always been a lot of fun. They've been, like I said, like physical and just kind of what you expect coming up for a semifinal.'