Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Kim Clijsters wins US$1 million in LA

WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS Clijsters became the first player since Steffi Graf to win successive titles at the season-ending tournament after beating Mauresmo

AP , LOS ANGELES

Kim Clijsters after defeating Amelie Mauresmo to win the WTA Tour Championship Monday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

PHOTO: AP

Kim Clijsters of Belgium successfully defended her title at the WTA Championships, defeating Amelie Mauresmo of France 6-2, 6-0.

Clijsters became the first player since Steffi Graf in 1996 to win successive titles at the season-ending tournament.

She earned US$1,000,030, the largest prize in women's tennis. The extra US$30 represented the WTA Tour's 30th anniversary. Clijsters finished the year with US$4,029,094 in earnings, the first female player to win more than US$4 million in a season.

"It's a dream come true," she said Monday, singling out Billie Jean King and the nine women who formed the first pro circuit in 1971. "It's because of them that players at this moment can be making a good living."

WTA Tour president and CEO Larry Scott said the event will leave Los Angeles in 2005, and relocate to another American city, Europe or China.

Clijsters dropped her serve to start the match, then dominated Mauresmo, who had just two more break points against the Belgian the rest of the way. She had 16 winners to Mauresmo's eight.

"You want to focus on yourself and not let her back in the match," Clijsters said. "I saw the ball like a football, I was seeing it really well. It's nice to know you can do whatever you want with the ball."

Clijsters broke Mauresmo three times in the first set and served two love games. Her first match point came at 40-love on Mauresmo's serve, but Clijsters netted a backhand. She won on her second match point when Mauresmo's backhand went into the net.

Clijsters raised her arms in triumph and ran to hug Mauresmo at the net. Her victory delighted about 20 Belgians who shouted her name between points. Mauresmo had a small group of beret-topped supporters.

"I did my best but it wasn't good enough," Mauresmo said. "I wasn't finding my rhythm. She played a good game and wasn't making any mistakes. Of course, I helped her by making a lot."

Clijsters won all five of her matches in Los Angeles, including a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Mauresmo in round-robin play Saturday.

"I wanted to play the same way I played yesterday and a few days before," Mauresmo said. "She was covering the court very well and she wasn't giving me any short balls to try to come in."

Clijsters finished the year with a 90-12 record and nine titles. She was particularly successful in California, winning titles at Los Angeles, Indian Wells and Carson, and she was a finalist in Carlsbad.

However, Clijsters will drop from No. 1 to No. 2 when the year-end WTA Tour rankings are released. She will finish 75 points behind top-ranked countrywoman Justine Henin-Hardenne, who lost to Mauresmo in a three-set semifinal.

Clijsters said she was disappointed not to play Henin-Hardenne in the final. Henin-Hardenne defeated Clijsters in both the French Open and US Open finals.

"She deserves to be there as well," Clijsters said. "We've been the two strongest players from the moment Venus and Serena didn't play as much."

The Williams sisters missed the most of the last six months because of injuries. Venus will drop out of the Top 10 -- to 11th -- for the first time since March 1998.

Mauresmo is projected to equal her career-best ranking of fourth. She was 2-3 during the tournament, and only reached the semifinals when Elena Dementieva of Russia defeated American Chanda Rubin.

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