Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 11, Wonder Woman!

Greetings tennis nuts,

Yeah, she's back.  And with authority. 

Nothing like a swift thumping of the worlds No. 13 player to get the rust off. 

Kim Clijsters, in her return to the sport that she left behind while ranked No. 4 in the world just two years ago, has opened the eyes of WTA fans and mothers all over the world and made us wonder - could her straight set victory of Bartoli be the beginning of something big, or was this win just the product of adrenaline and the topsy turvy nature of the WTA these days?  

"Without playing a match for two years it's pretty amazing the level she had right now," said a stunned Marion Bartoli, who was on the short end of the 88-minute affair.  "The level of play, yes, it's in the top-10 already."  

Serena Williams had this to say about Clijsters:  "I look like I'm the one who had a kid more than her...she looks amazing."

Sensing strong support from everyone on tour, players, media, and fans included, Clijsters seized the opportunity, igniting a fire that must have been smoldering deep within her since she stepped away from the game in 2007.  

The fact that she stormed out to a 4-0 lead in the first set was surprising, but what was more surprising is that she was able to recover after blowing that lead.  Saving 8 out of 10 break point opportunities against the return game of Bartoli shows that not only is Clijsters tough, she's also match tough, much in the same way that our other favorite comeback player, Maria Sharapova, has proven to be.  

Fighting back to get an additional break after Bartoli tied the set at 4-4, and coming back to serve out the match after being down 0-40 in the final game, are clear signs that Clijsters hasn't lost the feistiness that led her to a U.S. Open in 2005.  

She did commit 31 unforced errors, and only served 49 percent, but her commanding 28-5 edge in winners says a lot about the way the 26-year-old was able to control the tone of the match.

Questions inevitably will arise about the legitimacy of the WTA's talent pool if Clijsters can continue her remarkable comeback this summer.  Those questions will be asked by the same people who are puzzled by how the sports No. 1 player can keep getting blitzed out of grand-slam tournaments.  To them I say read between the lines.  

Clijsters is only 26, and she's had the last 6 months to train with very little pressure due to travel and tournament play.  She's fresh as the proverbial daisy while these other girls have been slogging around the globe for the last 9 months in an attempt to improve their rankings and prepare for the Grand-Slams.  

This match says a lot about Clijsters, there's no doubt about that, but Clijsters victory does not in any way make a mockery out of the rest of the players on tour.  And if Clijsters can stay hot and actually become a force this summer, the WTA will benefit from all the attention that the story will undoubtedly receive.  

In fact I think that all this so-called negative attention that the WTA is receiving about it's whacked-out rankings forumula and it's lack of depth in the top-10 is actually increasing the popularity of the Woman's game.  With Sharapova fighting through her troubles this summer, and now the inspiring return of a mother who couldn't stay away from the game she loves, I'd say that the WTA makes for some pretty compelling entertainment at the present moment.  

Clijsters will take on Patty Schnyder tomorrow in Cincy, and I'm sure there will be lots of people in the seats who agree with me.  

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