DEFENDING champion Serena Williams believes Kim Clijsters will have nothing to lose when the two former world number ones meet in tonight’s US Open semi-final at Flushing Meadows.
Second seed Williams is in pursuit of a 12th grand slam of her career and a fourth US Open title, having won her first a decade ago in New York at the age of 17, beating 16-year-old Clijsters in the third round en route.
The Belgian has won only once in their eight meetings, the last of which came in 2003, but Clijsters has since been a world number one, picked up a US Open title of her own in 2005, retired and had a baby.
Given a wild card in the main draw in just her third tournament since coming out of retirement last month, Clijsters has overpowered all in her path, including third seed Venus Williams, and the beaten American’s younger sister believes her next opponent is benefiting from the lack of expectation.
“She’s a really good player. She plays tough. She plays hard,” Serena said of Clijsters.
“Now it’s like a totally different level, because she has absolutely nothing to lose. I think that’s when you can play your ultimate best tennis.”
Serena was impressed by Clijsters’ level of play as she beat Venus in three sets.
“I just saw how well she moved. Seems like she’s even faster than what she was before.
“I was thinking that maybe I should have a baby and then I’ll come back faster,” she joked. “That was my observation, so I’m thinking about it.
“I thought she was moving really well. I don’t know if she’s faster or not but she hasn’t definitely lost a step.”
Williams said their first meeting 10 years ago in the third round at Flushing Meadows had been a watershed moment for both players.
“I just remember no one really knew her, and she gave me a run for my money,” she said.
“I just knew her face because I saw her in the locker room a lot and I saw her play a lot and I felt like that was actually a turning point in both our careers.”
Despite her poor record against Williams, Clijsters is confident of taking her opportunities against the second seed when they arise.
“I think she’s always been able to step it up at the grand slams,” Clijsters said of her semi-final opponent. “Serena, I’ve seen her play here, and she has that face on where she’s like, ‘Okay, I’m here to do business’.
“But that doesn’t mean that you don’t get chances when you get to play her. So that’s something that I’m going to be really focused on is obviously play aggressive tennis and try to dominate a lot of points.
“Still, I think the one who keeps the unforced errors down I think is going to get through here.”
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