Clijsters enjoying final Wimbledon appearance


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The Independent Online

Kim Clijsters was unable to reach the Wimbledon final at the height of her career and at peak fitness but giving it one last shot is bringing the best out of her.

She retired once and came back after becoming a mother, but this is her farewell season and she came into the tournament she dearly wants to win with an injury.

However the 29-year-old Belgian, a three-time US Open champion and multiple finalist at every other grand slam, has come through two rounds now and not dropped a set.

She is giving no indication the abdominal strain she suffered before a semi-final in Holland last week is troubling her.

Today she was an impressive 6-3 6-3 winner against Andrea Hlavackova, a Czech player best known as a doubles specialist, just as she was in rolling past a fellow former world number one in Jelena Jankovic on Monday.

So Clijsters is at the last-32 stage in her last grass-court grand slam, and Russian 12th seed Vera Zvonareva stands in her way of going any deeper into the tournament.

A Centre Court outing was a treat for the crowd favourite today, and after drilling a forehand on match point she congratulated Hlavackova on her match before turning to receive rapturous acclaim, which had her beaming.

"You never get used to that kind of thing," Clijsters, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2003 and 2006, said.

"This court made me come back to professional tennis and it means the world to me to be out there again."

It took just a single break of serve for Clijsters to pull one set ahead, making her decisive move in the sixth game.

Clijsters then had 40-15 against the Hlavackova serve in the seventh game of the second set and when her opponent hit out of court that provided the breakthrough she was seeking.

It was a break she consolidated to lead 5-3 and Hlavackova's challenge was finished as she dropped another service game to bow out.

Clijsters, who was kept waiting by the marathon contest which saw Caroline Wozniacki bow out to Tamira Paszek, said: "I felt I was into the match as soon as it started.

"We had a long match before us and I warmed up a few times but I really kept my focus and was ready to go."

Clijsters cannot count on playing on Centre Court next so today's experience was one to savour.

"It's a very special walk when you leave the locker room, and I was like, 'Maybe this is the last time'," she said.

"But as soon as I felt that I told myself, 'No, you're going to go for it', and I really tried to play some really good tennis so I could get another opportunity to play here."