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Old 01-31-2004, 10:13 AM   #91
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Line calls played a role

By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- For the first set and a half of the Australian Open women's final, it really looked like more of the same from the dueling Belgians.


Justine Henin-Hardenne played as flawless as you can under pressure, while Clijsters hit too many unforced errors and not enough winners.


However, line calls also played a role in the match, which you hate to see in the final of any major. A couple went against Clijsters in the first set, and in the entire match, two of the four bad calls were on break points against her. Another came in the last game on a big-swinging forehand volley at a crucial point. The calls certainly factored into her loss.


Line calls aside, Clijsters' two double faults hurt her when she had a chance to level the third set at 4-all. When she got back in the match, she waffled again. Henin-Hardenne also blinked, though, when she was up one set and 4-2 in the second. She choked again when she was up two breaks in the third set and and lost them both. Still, in the end, Henin-Hardenne was the tougher player here as she won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.


Clijsters continues to show what a great sportswoman she is in the way she shook the chair umpire's hand despite the bad calls and handled her postmatch press conference. For her sake, I hope she doesn't get discouraged by these losses but keeps fighting. Because when the Williams sisters get back the women's tour won't get any easier, and Clijsters is too good not to win one of these championships.


With three major titles, Henin-Hardenne has now won as many as Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati, and she's only 21 years old. She's got room to improve, and she's looking to do just that. She's trying to make her second serve bigger and her forehand into a greater weapon, and she's looking to stay in the best shape on the tour. People will have to reckon with her abilities and her hunger.


And Henin-Hardenne will not evaporate into thin air even when the Williams sisters get back. She choked at two points in this match and still managed to win. She never gets down. She fights hard even when she's fighting her demons. It's really admirable.


This was the most emotional, dramatic final we've had since Jennifer Capriati fought off four championship points two years ago. The Williams sisters finals were less than dramatic, and Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters two previous finals were terrible. So, after the poor field in this tournament, it was great to end it with a match that had you locked in.


This tournament will never be a classic, but the final will be memorable.


ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.
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Old 01-31-2004, 03:50 PM   #92
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With WTA World down, I thought I'd just put this in here, if people want to see it. Sorry if its already been posted elsewhere.

Clijsters fights all the way
by Luke Buttigieg
Saturday, January 31, 2004

No.2 seed Kim Clijsters will leave Australia in the next few days without a maiden Grand Slam trophy, having gone down in three sets to fellow Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne in the Australian Open final, but she lost no admirers along the way.

Clijsters looked headed for a disappointing straight-sets defeat in her first final at Melbourne Park when she fell a set and 2-4 down, with Henin-Hardenne's untouchable serve and ability to force mistakes proving the difference.

But urged on by the fans - not only because they wanted to see a close match but also due to her strong local connection through her relationship with Australian Lleyton Hewitt - Clijsters fought back brilliantly.

Although she levelled the match at a set all and then also recovered from 0-4 down in the decider with two more breaks, Clijsters eventually fell short to Henin-Hardenne for a third time in as many major finals.

"I fought it really well to get back in that second set. Even in the beginning of the third set, she hardly missed any balls. She makes you go for so many shots which are not natural, I think, for a lot of players. She keeps bringing them back," Clijsters explained.

"You try to go closer to the lines and then you miss a few. That's I think where she made the biggest difference today. She brought so many balls back that made me go a little bit out of my comfort zone."

At 3-4 in the third set and facing a break point, her cause was also not helped by an overrule from the chair umpire that gave her opponent the critical break, even though replays indicated that the ball may have just clipped the baseline.

Clijsters refused to blame her defeat on the overrule, other than to admit her obvious disappointment.

"I'm not the type of player that's going to start complaining after matches," Clijsters added. "That's something at the moment, very disappointing I think. And a few people have told me that it was in."

"But I'm not going to blame the umpire or anything because everyone makes mistakes. But of course its disappointing. You feel things when they come off the racket, you get the experience."

"I've been playing for 12 years. As soon as I hit the ball I probably know if it's going in or out, I definitely had the feeling it was good, but nothing I can do about it now."

As for the fact that all three of her Grand Slam final defeats have come to Henin-Hardenne, Clijsters added that she believes she has simply been beaten by a better player on the day.

"I think it doesn't matter, how the score was," Clijsters said. "I mean, it's always tough to lose them. I definitely felt like today played a lot better than I did in the previous finals that I played against her."

"I don't think it's got anything to do with psychological at all. I think she played really well. I think she started really well. She didn't give me a lot of easy mistakes, and she was returning well at the crucial moments when she had to."

"Each one is very disappointing. I wouldn't say one more than the other. They're all disappointing. Like I said in my speech as well, I'm very lucky to have been out there as well. At least I gave myself a shot at it," she added of her ankle injury.

Clijsters will head home to Belgium for some practice and to try and give her ankle time to fully heal, and even though she finished runner-up, can do so in the knowledge that when her game is on she can compete with the best players in the world.

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Old 01-31-2004, 04:16 PM   #93
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Umpire in line of fire after crucial call cruels Clijsters

By Karen Lyon
February 1, 2004
The Sun-Herald

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Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters at the net after the match. Photo: Ray Kennedy

A disappointed Kim Clijsters said she was not prepared to blame a controversial line call late in the third set for her loss to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the final of the Australian Open yesterday.

Clijsters was clearly upset with the call, which gave Henin-Hardenne the decisive break in the final set and allowed the top seed to serve for the title. At the time, the No.2 seed questioned the overruling by chair umpire Sandra De Jenken and later said the call had helped turn the tide of the final.

It was the third time in less than 12 months the 20-year-old has lost a grand slam final to her compatriot.

Afterwards Clijsters did not want the overruling to be seen as her excuse for losing the match. "I'm not the type of player that's gonna start complaining after matches," she said. "That's something at the moment [that is] very disappointing, I think.

"A few people have told me that it was in. So that's even more disappointing then. But I'm not going to blame the umpire or anything because everyone makes mistakes. But of course it's disappointing."

Late in the third set, the momentum was once more on the move when Clijsters grabbed the ascendancy. She had broken the serve of Henin-Hardenne twice to recover the two early breaks she had conceded and, at 40-30, appeared poised to level the set at 4-all.

Yet she squandered two game points, double-faulting on both occasions. When Clijsters pushed a backhand volley wide, Henin- Hardenne had the critical break point.

Clijsters and most of the crowd, which had thrown its support behind her, believed she had saved the break point when her drive forehand volley appeared to hit the baseline and skid away from Henin-Hardenne.

The No.1 seed immediately looked at the line judge, pointed to the offending line and appeared to tell the judge the ball was out.

It was then that De Jenken overruled the call and awarded the game to Henin-Hardenne. While Clijsters questioned the overruling, the crowd began to jeer the decision and continued while Henin-Hardenne prepared to serve for the match, which she eventually won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Asked whether she was annoyed that Henin- Hardenne had become involved in the line call, Clijsters said she did not want to enter into such a debate. "I'm not going to get into things like that. I don't want to start any trouble or anything," she said. "You know, things happen . . . so I don't really want to get into too much."

What Clijsters would say is that she believed the shot was a winner.

"You feel things when they come off the racquet," she said. "I've been playing for 12 years. Now, as soon as I hit the ball, I probably know if it's going in or out.

"I definitely had the feeling it was good but nothing I can do about it now."

Henin-Hardenne said the decision was crucial but was "pretty sure" the umpire got it right.

"It was important because it was a break," she said. "And I needed to take one game in this point after losing three games in a row. The umpire took her responsibilities and I think it was a very tough call, but I think it was just long."Umpire in line of fire after crucial call cruels Clijsters

By Karen Lyon
February 1, 2004
The Sun-Herald

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Email to a friend

Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters at the net after the match. Photo: Ray Kennedy

A disappointed Kim Clijsters said she was not prepared to blame a controversial line call late in the third set for her loss to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the final of the Australian Open yesterday.

Clijsters was clearly upset with the call, which gave Henin-Hardenne the decisive break in the final set and allowed the top seed to serve for the title. At the time, the No.2 seed questioned the overruling by chair umpire Sandra De Jenken and later said the call had helped turn the tide of the final.

It was the third time in less than 12 months the 20-year-old has lost a grand slam final to her compatriot.

Afterwards Clijsters did not want the overruling to be seen as her excuse for losing the match. "I'm not the type of player that's gonna start complaining after matches," she said. "That's something at the moment [that is] very disappointing, I think.

"A few people have told me that it was in. So that's even more disappointing then. But I'm not going to blame the umpire or anything because everyone makes mistakes. But of course it's disappointing."

Late in the third set, the momentum was once more on the move when Clijsters grabbed the ascendancy. She had broken the serve of Henin-Hardenne twice to recover the two early breaks she had conceded and, at 40-30, appeared poised to level the set at 4-all.

Yet she squandered two game points, double-faulting on both occasions. When Clijsters pushed a backhand volley wide, Henin- Hardenne had the critical break point.

Clijsters and most of the crowd, which had thrown its support behind her, believed she had saved the break point when her drive forehand volley appeared to hit the baseline and skid away from Henin-Hardenne.

The No.1 seed immediately looked at the line judge, pointed to the offending line and appeared to tell the judge the ball was out.

It was then that De Jenken overruled the call and awarded the game to Henin-Hardenne. While Clijsters questioned the overruling, the crowd began to jeer the decision and continued while Henin-Hardenne prepared to serve for the match, which she eventually won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Asked whether she was annoyed that Henin- Hardenne had become involved in the line call, Clijsters said she did not want to enter into such a debate. "I'm not going to get into things like that. I don't want to start any trouble or anything," she said. "You know, things happen . . . so I don't really want to get into too much."

What Clijsters would say is that she believed the shot was a winner.

"You feel things when they come off the racquet," she said. "I've been playing for 12 years. Now, as soon as I hit the ball, I probably know if it's going in or out.

"I definitely had the feeling it was good but nothing I can do about it now."

Henin-Hardenne said the decision was crucial but was "pretty sure" the umpire got it right.

"It was important because it was a break," she said. "And I needed to take one game in this point after losing three games in a row. The umpire took her responsibilities and I think it was a very tough call, but I think it was just long."
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