Tuesday, 11 August 2009


(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

So Clisjters' well-publicised comeback at the Cincinnati Open began with a plomb yesterday with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Marion Bartoli.

"It was very difficult to expect anything," she said. "I haven't seen her in two years. That's the reason I didn't start well. I was trying to figure out what she was doing instead of playing my game.

"By the time I figured out her tactics, I was down 0-4. It's just a really bad draw, I guess."

She was stunned by the standard of play that Clijsters produced, saying, "Two years without playing a match - it's pretty amazing the level she has already right now. I guess the level of play, yes, it's inside the top 10 already. I can tell you that.

"The way she was moving and hitting and her physical strength after two years without playing a match it's just amazing."

I won't get a chance to see what she's about until Thursday, assuming she's still in the tournament by then.

There's certainly a grumpy comment or two to be made on whether such a smooth comeback might have been possible even five years ago; I think I might prefer to welcome her return to the tour, which could do with a restorative agent right now.

Besides, much as I like her anomalous style of play, Marion Bartoli is exactly the kind of player I expect to go from winning a tournament one week to crashing out in the first round of the next.

And whatever else you may think of Clijsters, she possesses the kind of organic talent that made it possible for her to win a Slam in an era (funny how that can be as short as a couple of years nowadays) that included Henin, Sharapova, and both the Sisters at the top of their game. It shouldn't be surprising what players with that sort of pedigree can achieve. Just look at what Hingis did in 2006.

Most of the players seem to agree.

I think she will do top ten for sure," Svetlana Kuznetsova, the French Open champion, said. "She seems exactly the same as she was before. I think it's great she comes back and I think tennis needed somebody like this. I am really excited. There are not many girls who really had a birth of a child and come back."

"I look like I had a kid more than she does,"[Serena] Williams said. "She looks amazing."

Venus Williams:

"I think it's great. I think she's happy to be back and be here and I hope it goes really well for her. I think she will do well, definitely. She's a great athlete and a great competitor."

Jelena Jankovic:

"It's always nice to see a well-known face come back again," she said. "She was a great athlete and one of the best movers on tour. If she could be number one before, she can do it again."

(Quotes: The Times)
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