Kim Clijsters gained a measure of redemption by beating Amelie Mauresmo 3–6, 7–6(3), 6–0 for the Italian Open title here yesterday.
A week earlier, Clijsters had squandered three match points before losing to fellow Belgian Justine Hennin–Hardenne in the German Open final.
Within two points of losing again, Clijsters broke Mauresmo's serve to extend the second set into a tiebreaker and then never trailed again in this key clay–court warmup for the French Open, which starts May 26.
"It was good for me to come here straight away and focus again on my next tournament," Clijsters said. "I just tried to block it out and get revenge."
After Mauresmo's forehand landed in the net to give Clijsters the second–set tiebreaker, the No 2 seed was in complete control and on her way to her third title of the year.
"I knew she was getting close and I really tried not to give it to her," Clijsters said. "I just kept hanging in there. Last week in Berlin I had a few match points, so it's nice to win as well."
Mauresmo, who had beaten top–ranked Serena Williams and fifth–seeded Jennifer Capriati in her previous two matches, seemed to tire as the match went on. The fourth–seeded Frenchwoman wore a bandage around her left thigh from the start of the match.
In the first set, Mauresmo broke Clijster's serve to go up 4–2. She also had two breaks of serve in the second set, but Clijsters countered each time. "In the beginning I was thinking too much about the way I had to play," Clijsters said. "I just got more comfortable throughout the second set."
Before the final set, Mauresmo asked for a 10–minute break that was permissible due to the hot conditions. "I took it to try and get the energy back, but it didn't work," she said.
Two double faults by Mauresmo gave Clijsters a 5–0 lead in the final set and then Clijsters closed out the match with a drop–shot winner on match point to win the third set in just 21 minutes. "When she asked for those 10 minutes, I knew that she was maybe a little tight from yesterday," Clijsters said.
Clijsters' route to the final was much easier than Mauresmo's. She scored straight set wins against Virginia Ruano–Pascual, qualifier Cara Black, eighth–seeded Anastasia Myskina and 13th–seeded Ai Sugiyama in the semifinals.
"She had an easier match than me yesterday," Mauresmo said. "But you've got to give her credit to stay in the match and finally win it."
Clijsters' previous titles this year came in Sydney and Indian Wells, California. She earned US$189,000 for her latest victory. Mauresmo's runner–up check was worth US$95,900.
Former US President George Bush attended the match, which was played under sunny skies at the Foro Italico.
In the doubles final, 46–year–old Martina Navratilova and 17–year–old Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Jelena Dokic and Nadia Petrova 6–4, 5–7, 6–2. For Navratilova, it was the 170th doubles title in a career that began 28 years ago. The serve–and–volley specialist has won 167 singles titles.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies