Carson (USA): Her mind was racing. Her cell phone was ringing. And in 35 degree celsius heat, Kim Clijsters had goosebumps.
Clijsters became the new No. 1 in women’s tennis on Sunday, outlasting Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 to win the JP Morgan Chase Open for her tour-high sixth title of the year.
“This is a day I’ll never forget,” she said, smiling.
While talking about being No. 1, Clijsters still hadn’t come to grips with her status. “Oh, it sounds funny saying that,” she said, giggling.
Clijsters takes over the top spot from the injured Serena Williams, who trails by less than 45 points in the WTA Tour rankings.
“It’s a feeling I cannot really describe,” Clijsters said. “On the court, I had all these butterflies in my stomach and goosebumps. There were so many things going through my mind.”
Clijsters, who moves up from No. 2, is the first Belgian and the 12th woman to be No. 1 since the rankings began in 1975.
“She’s got a lot of game,” Davenport said. “I think she can get better. She hits the ball hard and she plays offence and defence extremely well.”
Clijsters is also the only player to be No. 1 without first winning a Grand Slam title, although she will be among the favourites to win the US Open, which begins August 25.
“It’s something that always seems so far away, and it is always something that you work for,” Clijsters said, referring to being No. 1. “It makes you more motivated and makes you train harder.”
The ranking is another achievement in a year that so far has been outstanding for the 20-year-old Clijsters. She reached the semi-finals in all 14 events she’s played in 2003; she and countrywoman Justine Henin-Hardenne were tied with five titles.
Clijsters lost to Henin-Hardenne in the French Open final.
Among the callers to Clijsters’ cell phone was her father Lei, a former pro soccer player, and boyfriend Lleyton Hewitt, the ATP Tour’s former No. 1. Her parents were home in Belgium, where a band scheduled a concert in Clijsters’ hometown, but few showed up.
“They were all watching the match,” she said. “They’ve always supported me. It’s great to be able to give something back to them.”
Clijsters said she planned a quiet celebration dinner with her coach and physical trainer. She cut and served pieces of a large cake that read “No. 1 congratulations Kim,” then wrinkled her nose upon taking a sip of champagne from a bottle presented by tournament organisers.
Later, Clijsters carried pieces of cake to fans waiting for autographs.
Williams, champion at five of the past six majors, had knee surgery August 1 and is expected to be out up to two months. She has been No. 1 for 57 consecutive weeks since July 8, 2002.