The Comeback Kid goes up a gear

Kim Clijsters, the Comeback Kid, will turn up at Wimbledon tomorrow in far better shape than anyone has a right to expect after serious wrist and knee injuries over the past year that might have ended her career at 21. So much confidence has she gained from winning the Hastings Direct International Championship yesterday that there is every reason to expect a decent run in SW19, where the sturdy Belgian is scheduled to meet the world No 1, Lindsay Davenport, in the fourth round.

Yesterday's uneven victory by 7-5 6-0 in the final against the young Russian qualifier Vera Douchevina was the culmination of a useful fortnight of practice and match play on grass, in her first tournament on that capricious surface since losing to Venus Williams in the 2003 Wimbledon semi-finals. Surgery on her left wrist a fortnight before last year's tournament was followed by further trouble in October and a period of understandable self-doubt. "It was tough, because the doctors started doubting whether I could come back," she admitted yesterday. "When you hear doctors say that, you start worrying. So for two weeks or so it was very tough."

This year's comeback was spectacular, with victories at Indian Wells (beating Davenport in the final) and at Miami, but a knee injury hindered her confidence, as did defeat by Davenport at the French Open after leading 6-1 3-1. Arriving early at Eastbourne to get the feel of the green stuff again proved a good move, and in progressing through the week, Clijsters has felt better with each match.

"The first match on grass again was tough, getting used to the different positioning and movement on the court, but every match I've gradually started doing things better," she said. "Every day something else is starting to improve. Now it's just a matter of working hard and hoping everything fits together. I have to keep working on my wrist and the knee now as well. I feel my game's not 100 per cent, but I'm improving."

Significant improvement was discernible between the two sets yesterday, though it needed to be measured against the fatigue that suddenly set in for her opponent in the fierce heat of the midday sun. Clijsters was not afraid to come to the net - though she was sometimes comfortably passed when doing so - and her serve misfired early on.

There were five breaks in a ragged first set, the 18-year-old Douchevina lacking the guile to capitalise on her hard-earned advantage and twice being broken back immediately after leading 2-1 and 4-3. In the 12th game, Clijsters won a fine rally to gain a first set point and, urged to "finish it off, Kim", did just that.

Douchevina, whose world ranking of 54 will be improved in the next couple of days after she beat Amélie Mauresmo en route to her first final, has a powerful, double-fisted backhand but a weak second serve, which won her only three points out of 20 yesterday. Early in the second set she appeared to be flagging, and for a while could not win a point. She was duly broken in the second, fourth and, conclusively, the sixth games, though the runners-up prize of $49,500 (£27,000) was pleasant compensation.

After a first set lasting three-quarters of an hour, Clijsters had raced through the second in barely a third of that time and the final was over soon after 12.30pm, an early start having been made to ensure television coverage. The consolation for any Devonshire Park patrons feeling short-changed was an immediate promise from the popular Clijsters to return next year, though as someone who is "pretty superstitious" she must have had the fingers of that troublesome left hand crossed before committing to anything so far in the future.

She is more cautious about the prospects this week, which begins with a match against Britain's Katie O'Brien. "At the moment my level's not good enough to win [the tournament]," she said. "I have a lot to improve on and it takes time. Losing to Lindsay in Paris has given me a lot of motivation to come here and improve, because I felt my game was going nowhere."

Now it is going to south-west London and looking good: "I'm hungry and ready to go."

Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home