(20 JAN.) We're a bit late on this one but it's good news as Kim has successfully qualified for the 4th round of the Australian Open after defeating Daniela Hantuchova 6-3 6-2.
Kim, who has only played seven tournaments since lifting the 2011 title due to injury, owned a 9-1 record against the slender Slovakian entering the contest, with Hantuchova's only victory coming in Brisbane two weeks ago when Clijsters retired with a hip ailment.
It was certainly not the greatest performance of Kim's life, but it was good enough as she ripped 27 winners (almost an equal amount off her forehand and backhand sides) and committed 18 unforced errors. Hantuchova, who reached the semifinals in Melbourne in 2008, before losing to Ana Ivanovic, could only manage 12 winners and committed 23 unforced errors.
'Day off yesterday, night match tonight. So I felt like I kind of just had to find my aggressive footwork and positioning on the court', the Belgian said. 'But I was able to at the important points win those points and make the right decisions. Obviously at the end of the day, when you're not playing your best, that's what it comes down to is just trying to play the important points as well as possible. I was able to do that today. So [the] second set was much better. I'm pleased that I finished a lot better than how I started.'
One of the game's most feared all-around players, the 28-year-old Belgian has got to the point in her career where she does not need a lot of matches. In fact, in her comeback to the tour in August 2009 after she took off two years to start a family, she won the US Open in just her third tournament back. She is not seen by some to be a player who relies on her wits, but she has a great understanding of her capabilities and where her opponents' frailties lie. That's why she was able to enter the 2012 Aussie summer season without having played since the first week of August 2011, and yet has immediately become a title threat once again.
The pre-first retirement Kim Clijsters, who was considered to be a bit of a play-aholic, has matured.
'I think when you're a little bit older you're capable to set your mind to what it is like to play a match again', she said. 'You have your routines. I come back to routines, but they're so important. You have your game that you know that you're going to stick to. I think when I was younger I needed to play those matches to kind of get a feel for how I had to play and what my coach wanted of me and those kind of things. Now I know out there. Even after two years off, when I stepped out there, I knew what my game was, and I didn't need a lot of the matches to find that again. Okay, you need to get used to the emotions and the pressure and the stress a little bit, but when it comes down to finding your own confidence, that's there. You've done that so many times and been in big situations so many times.'
'I would like to improve every day', Kim added. 'That's one of the main reasons why I decided to put [coach Carl Maes] on board again. I want to learn from him and improve. I have the feeling that I have been improving on a lot of different areas as well as emotionally, tacticwise, physically, and confidence. It's great for me to be in a situation with Carl where I still feel like I can improve on all those things and I'm not stuck to where I feel like I'm at my top level. Look at Nadal, Federer. You can always become better. You can always work out harder in the gym and work out differently. You just learn yourself better and better.'
In the 4th round Kim will face Li Na in a rematch of last year's final. Their match is scheduled third on Rod Laver Arena and should thus not start before 3pm, local time.
(adapted from www.australianopen.com)