January 30, 2011 | In: Articles

Clijsters ready for final act

Kim Clijsters is hoping to claim her maiden Australian Open title with victory over Li Na in Saturday’s final – a match that is likely to be the Belgian’s farewell to Melbourne Park.

Clijsters revealed 2011 is set to be her last full season on the WTA Tour and she is looking to sign off by adding to her haul of three grand slam titles, all of which have come at the US Open.

Third seed Clijsters, who has a young daughter and is keen to spend more time at home, lost her only previous Australian Open final appearance to compatriot Justine Henin in 2004.

“I know this is probably going to be my last full season on the tour and then we will see,” she said.

“It’s nice that I am in this spot to reach the final and play for the title. It’s a great feeling to have, knowing that I am not going to be able to come here for five more years.”

Clijsters and Li met in the final of the Medibank International in Sydney earlier in January, with the Chinese player recovering from 5-0 down in the opening set to win 7-6 (7/3) 6-3.

And Clijsters realises there is a lesson to be learned from that encounter.

“The first five games I played well,” she added. “I stayed very aggressive, stayed on top of my baseline and that’s something that she is going to do as well.

“I think it’s a matter of who is going to be able to that first, who is going to be a little bit more powerful and with fewer unforced errors that is going to have the best chance to win tomorrow.

“I don’t think my mental preparation was ready for me to compete 100 percent against her in that match in Sydney.

“And she played incredibly well – probably the best that she has played against me.

“So it will be tough.”

Clijsters is one of the most popular players on tour but she will find herself fighting a groundswell of support for her opponent.

Ninth seed Li’s run to the final has caught the imagination in Australia and she has endeared herself further to the public with her quirky post-match interviews.

As the first Chinese player to reach a grand slam singles final, the 28-year-old is big news back home as well.

In demand

“I am so excited to have reached a grand slam final.

“When I went back to the locker room after the win yesterday, I turned on my phone and saw all the messages coming in.

“They showed the match in China and so many people watched.

“I also got a text from the boss of the Chinese Tennis Federation.

“She said well done and that she would buy me dinner when I got back.”

Li had to save a match point in her semi-final win over top seed Caroline Wozniacki and she is hoping that never-say-die attitude will be in evidence again.

“In China we have a saying that means if you have a tough time you will overcome it,” she said.

“And it means you have the best of luck. So I hope it comes with me to the final.”

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