U.S. OPEN Kim Clijsters captures elusive ultimate mark

Tough times of injury helped renew her focus.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Now that Kim Clijsters finally has won The Big One, more Grand Slam titles could quickly follow.
Clijsters was saddled with the dreaded "Best Player Never to Win a Major" tag after falling short in her first four tries to win a Grand Slam title.
But she put a definitive end to that Saturday night, trouncing Mary Pierce for the U.S. Open crown in the most lopsided final in eight years.
"Winning a big goal is always very difficult," Marc Dehous, Clijsters' coach, said.
"She had some amazing wins. She was No. 1 in singles and doubles. But the Grand Slam is something special, and it's difficult. Now she finally did it. So I hope many more will come."
No one ever doubted Clijsters had talent. The Belgian was No. 1 for 12 weeks in 2003, when she won a record nine titles, reached the finals in 15 of the 21 tournaments she played and won her first season-ending championship.
But she couldn't get that Grand Slam title, the ultimate mark by which players are measured.
"Sometimes, of course, I got a little frustrated every time I got asked in press conferences about [it], and I had the idea that the media was making more of it, like a bigger deal than it was," Clijsters said.
Missed opportunities
It wasn't as if she didn't have her chances.
She reached the finals at the 2003 French and U.S. opens, as well as the 2004 Australian Open. Each time, she lost to fellow Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne. She also lost in the 2001 French Open final to Jennifer Capriati.
After her loss to Henin-Hardenne in Australia, Clijsters missed time in early 2004 with tendinitis in her left wrist.
She made a brief return, only to injure the wrist again. She withdrew from the French Open and had surgery that June to remove a cyst on the wrist.
She missed Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, tried to come back and hurt her wrist again.
"Coming back, getting injured again, doctors saying you can play, doctors saying you can't play -- it's mentally tough," Dehous said.
New attitude
The tough times had one positive effect, though. Not being able to play tennis made Clijsters realize how much she loved it and more appreciative of the opportunities she had. When she finally returned in February, the 22-year-old brought a renewed determination and focus.
"That's the whole completely different attitude that I have now. No matter what I do, I'm going to go for it, because it could be over," Clijsters said.
The new attitude was evident right away. She won her second and third tournaments after she returned, beating No. 1 Lindsay Davenport at Indian Wells and Maria Sharapova in Miami.
She went on a tear when the summer hard-court season started, winning at Stanford, Los Angeles and Toronto, all without dropping a set.
She continued her roll at the Open, not dropping a set in her first four matches.
She beat Venus Williams and Sharapova to reach the final, then steamrolled Pierce 6-3, 6-1 in a match that took little over an hour.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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