NEW YORK (Reuters) - Kim Clijsters, the long-running success story on New York’s grand slam stage, is as ruthless on court as she is supportive off it.
The 27-year-old Clijsters offered words of encouragement to Vera Zvonareva, the victim she pummeled in Saturday’s final for her third U.S. Open crown and second in a row, on the court during the trophy presentation.
“Vera just keep it going, it will happen,” the Belgian said as consolation to the seventh-seeded Russian, who had reached her second successive grand slam final but is still looking for her maiden triumph.
Later Clijsters told reporters the 59-minute 6-2 6-1 drubbing she delivered was motivated by revenge, a desire to exact some payback for her three-set quarter-final loss to the Russian at Wimbledon.
“I kind of knew going into the match which things I didn’t do well in those two matches that I lost,” she said of the loss in London and a 2-6 6-3 6-2 defeat in Montreal last month.
“The one at Wimbledon was one of the most disappointing losses that I’ve dealt with so far in my career.”
Overall, Clijsters held a 5-2 head-to-head advantage over her opponent, but those defeats still burned.
“In a way I was excited to play her in the final here just to try and get that revenge, but I also learned a lot of things,” she revealed.
“By watching me lose against her, we picked up a few little things that helped me out there today, which was kind of mixing up my game a little more. Put enough pressure and variety in there, to throw up some higher balls here and there.
“I think that just got her thinking even more, besides the fact that she was probably thinking about the occasion, where she was playing and being in another final, which is always something that does have an effect on the way you feel.”
The Belgian dazzled the center court crowd and Zvonareva with her brilliant shot-making while showing no mercy against her unnerved rival as she posted the quickest women’s final win in the 30 years U.S. Open officials have timed the matches.
The loss of just three games made it the most lopsided final since Chris Evert galloped by Evonne Goolagong 6-3 6-0 in 1976.
Clijsters said what pleased her most about her run to another Open title — her 21st consecutive match victory at Flushing Meadows including her 2005 victory — was the way he progressed through the tournament.
“You know, (Samantha) Stosur, Venus (Williams) and then today was that gradually every match I felt better. I think that was just a personal improvement that I was really trying to aim for throughout these whole two weeks.
“That was just so comforting, knowing that I was playing my best or better when I had to.”
Off the court, Clijsters likes to play a mentor’s role to some of the players, naming Serbian Ana Ivanovic as one of those she keeps in touch with — though on the court, the Belgian is all business.
“I try to help anybody,” she said. “But obviously when I play against them I just try to be better on the day.”
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by John O'Brien