A The Old Age of 26, Clijsters Is Enjoying Her Tennis Life

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Tennis may be the only sport where 26 is considered old. And Kim Clijsters is feeling it. The comeback kid on the tournament – who beat China’s Na Li in straight sets today, 6-2, 6-4, to earn a trip to the Semifinals – knows she’s not a teenager anymore.

“I definitely think my face has definitely changed over the years,” said the unseeded Clijsters. “I think when I was 15, 16 coming on, I remember Wimbledon, when I did well there, you know, I really had to stop myself from like asking everybody for autographs in the locker room and everything.

“I just remember just being so in awe with everything that was happening around me and then playing on the center court and everything. It just overwhelms you a little bit. You kind of just forget what you have to do out there to play good tennis.”

Yet now Clijsters is a veteran and even though she’s been away from the game for two years, the 2005 US Open Champion knows that an older tennis player needs to play wiser, yet sometimes you have to go past your limits.

“I believe that you shouldn’t focus on stopping at your limit,” she said. “I think you can always improve and improve, you know, where, in a match you don’t have to reach that far. I think that’s why we train and that’s why we have, you know, very intense workouts months before you get to a tournament is so that you can go out there and not worrying about, you know, I’m getting close to my limit. I have to slow down a little bit or anything.

“So I think that’s something that is mentally very important I think for any player, is knowing that, you know, I’ve worked out a lot harder in practice or in the gym or anything, so I know that I’m capable of doing it during a match, whether it’s a three-set match or even for the men a five-set match.”

Although overshadowed by up and comers like Melanie Oudin and Caroline Wozniacki, Clijsters has been one of the major stories at the Open, she will face the winner of Serena Williams/Flavia Pennetta match later tonight.

Much like Clijsters, Williams is a veteran on the tour – she’s actually a year older than Belgian – and they faced each other 10 years ago when they were just teenagers, like the 17 year-old Oudin and 19 year-old Wozniacki.

“I remember playing against her here a few years ago or many, many years ago, let’s say,” she said. “I think it was 2000 or ’99 even, so ten years ago -whew – where I was kind of in a similar situation as maybe Oudin or someone where you’re up and you’re playing those big matches.

“But it was fun. It’s just great. But that’s where I first saw, you know, the type of players that, you know, the type of player that Serena is. She was missing a few more shots. I was kind of just bringing a lot of balls back and she was kind of missing them. But then at 5-2 in the third set where I was up, she just, bang, started going for aces, started hitting winners. Like something switched in her head.”

Yet, Williams needs to beat Pannetta to have a date with Clijsters, and the crafty veteran will be ready for either player.

“You know, she’s a good friend, and I was extremely happy for her when she reached a top 10 ranking,” Clijsters said. “Probably I think it was after Cincinnati, she got to her first top 10 ranking. So that was really nice to just see that. She’s worked very hard and she’s a fun girl, as well. She’s improved her game.”

And if Clijsters is able to move on, she could face one of the teenagers in the Finals, something, the youthful veteran would look forward to challenging.

“I love watching Oudin play, Wozniacki, Wickmayer, it’s so much fun for me to just watch on TV and see the emotions that come out of them when they win a match,” Clijsters said. “I get so happy when I just see that.

“But then again, I think, you know, I’m talking to like my coach and everyone, Wow, she’s only 17. They were like, Yeah, but you were like that. You don’t think like that at the moment. You don’t really think about the age or anything. Unless like now that I’m older, I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, you know, they’re young.’ You see that, the new face that’s still on there. They enjoy everything so much and they look at things in a different way when they get to a Grand Slam, because it’s so new.”

Spoken like at true veteran at age 26.

Kuzy Learns The Value of Sunshine

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Her nickname is “Sunshine” because of her positive disposition and she is one of the more likable up and comers on the tour.

And now, after her three set fourth round win over Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), Caroline Wozniacki is going to face Melanie Oudin in one of the more anticipated matches in this US Open.

“I think about just as a great run from both me and Melanie,” said Wozniacki, who made the Quarterfinals in a Grand Slam for the first time in her young career. “I think we’ve played some really good tennis, both of us. I think it’s going to be a great match. I don’t really think about who’s the favorite, who is not.

“I just enjoy playing on the big stadiums with such a huge crowd.”

The 19 year-old from Denmark is actually the favorite due to her No. 9 seeding in the tournament. She is the highest ranked player left after she downed the No. 6 ranked Kuznetsova.

“I feel like I’ve done some really good results this year,” said Wozniacki. “I feel like I’ve done well at the Grand Slams as well. I just lost to some players that were playing better than me that certain day.

“This time I just wanted to try to do my best again. I mean, if someone beats me, they have to play better than me, but I’m not gonna stop fighting, that’s for sure.”

And uch like the puncher she will play on Wednesday, this young up and comer had to comeback in her match against a Russian. After dropping the first set, she fought in the second.

Although she had a number of set points, Kuznetsova was able to come back to force a tiebreaker, which she eventually won after a hard back and fourth extra frame.

“I was just trying to fight for every point,” she said. “Maybe I was a little bit lucky, but that’s what tennis is all about. Sometimes you’re playing amazing and you lose a match, and sometimes you’re a little bit lucky. It’s one point that can change the whole match.”

“I think in the second set I should have played better,” Kuznetsova said. “I mean, I was playing unbelievable. I just hit too many unforced errors and I could not control my emotions. And I wanted it so much, so it was pretty hard to control.

“I was giving her some chances. What was the score in the second set? I don’t know.  First games I had chances to break her, and I was going for too much because everything was going so well.  And I give her chance to come back, to believe that she can do that.

And it did as she had the momentum in the third and even was serving for match, up 5-4, but the former Open Champion came back to force another tiebreak. Three match point and Wozniacki was able to finish her opponent with a beautiful backhand down the line, which Kuznetsova returned into the net.

“Overall I think I lost, like – a credit to her.,” Kuznetsova said. “She beat on the court, and she was putting balls back, but I lost to myself because I did so many unforced errors. These unforced errors, you cannot win against nobody. It’s no chance.

“Yeah, was fighting hard because it’s really what I want.  And I feel like I’m in great shape. Everything was not on my side, and I was doing too many unforced errors, not controlling the situation so much. But I think I played the game smart. I was trying to come to the net. I served better except the unforced errors.”

So now it’s enthusiasm vs. Sunshine as Oudin takes on another ranked player. Yet this time she’s not Russian, but another likable player, who has open surprises of her own.

“[Oudin] is a really good player, Wozniacki said. “She made it this far.  She’s been winning some amazing matches. She’s on a good winning streak. It’s going to be tough, especially also with the whole crowd supporting her. But I’m just going to go out there and enjoy.”

And maybe she can spread a little sunshine a long the way.