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Does Women's Tennis Need Kim Clijsters?
By Ken Miller, Lawn Tennis Analyst, Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009 3:27pm PST USA
Does Women's Tennis Need Kim Clijsters, Lawn Tennis Magazine Los Angeles--( Just as the Williams sisters appear poised to once again dominate the grand slams, Dinara Safina of Russia is set to claim the WTA Tour's top ranking Monday, despite her never having won a grand slam title.

Next week the second ranked Safina will share her rankings topping achievement with the currently fourth ranked Jelena Jankovic of Serbia who also last year reached the tour's top ranking while never taking a slam.

The Williams sisters, Serena Williams, the Australian Open and US Open champion, and Venus Williams, the Wimbledon champion, have won the last three grand slams. It's a feasible possibility that either sister could win May's French Open to then complete the Williams family grand slam despite the sisters' tendencies to favor hard or grasscourts and shorter points. In 2002, Serena defeated Venus in the Paris final to win her lone French Open title.

The sisters' dominance has again resulted in increased excitement and a higher level of play on the tour which is not a bad consequence, not at all. But it could be nicer for fans and the game overall if the Williams sisters had a rival other than each other.

Kim Clijsters of Belgium
It could be nicer for fans and the game overall if the Williams sisters had a rival other than each other.

And with past rivals and former world number ones Maria Sharapova of Russia sidelined with a lingering shoulder injury and Lindsay Davenport on maternity leave, one has to wonder if anybody can outhit the Williams sisters at their best at a non-clay grand slam.

Venus, ranked fifth, won Wimbledon the last two years behind the fastest serve on the WTA Tour. Last year Williams won each London match in straight sets. Serena, currently ranked number one, took the last two grand slams with her stunning mix of immediate baseline offense and offensive defense. In the Melbourne final, she destroyed Safina 6-0, 6-3.

And so when the 2005 US Open champion Kim Cljisters of Belgium last month announced her upcoming return to tennis after a two year hiatus, the Belgian received a warm welcome from the tour and tennis public. But after her marriage and her giving birth to a daughter, one has to wonder if Clijsters could still be a factor.

Clijsters, young still at 25 years old, trails both Williams sisters head to head, but to her credit, the tour has not really moved on much in her absence. Serena won 7 of 8 career matches versus Clijsters, but four encounters went to three sets with their last match taking place in 2003. Venus leads Clijsters 6-4 head to head, however Clijsters took their last two meetings.

Known for her speed, athleticism and acrobatic baseline splits, Clijsters had her breakthrough year in tennis in 1999. At the US Open that year in the third round as a 16 year old, Clijsters served for the match against the eventual champion, Serena Williams before falling 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Then after being generally known in the latter stages of her career as the best player to never win a grand slam title, Clijsters won finally at the 2005 US Open after finishing as finalist in her prior four grand slam championship matches. In the quarterfinals, Clijsters had also posted her only grand slam Williams family victory as she'd outlasted Venus Williams 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 after Williams had led 6-4, 4-2.

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