Miami WTA Review: Does Clijsters Want Serena’s Part-Time Job?

Rather than analyze yesterday’s final where Kim Clijsters ran away with the title 6-2, 6-1 by merely keeping the ball in play versus an erratic Venus Williams, I’d rather spend time pointing out this recent Twitter message from Clijsters to Venus’s sister Serena and what it all means for the WTA.

“@serenajwilliams Lucky you on your way to the beach! some of us have to practice for a tough match 2moro!!”

This gentle jab at Serena for spending time (rather obviously by the photos Serena tweeted about herself in a bikini) at the beach while still recovering from her knee injury basically summed up the whole women’s event at Miami. Even though she never stepped on a court, Serena still overshadowed any matches played. And though we still don’t know when or where Serena will play again, it’s safe to stay that Clijsters, who will be ranked No. 10 on Monday, could soon find herself with another job besides taking care of her daughter Jada, that of being No.1.

Winning two titles this year and dealing with old foes Venus Williams and Justine Henin and young foes like Victoria Azarenka, of all the the current players, Clijsters looks like the one that could challenge Serena for the top spot by the end of the year. With her forehand and movement sharper than ever, she matches up well against anybody on tour. Clijsters, like Serena, claims she will play a limited schedule due to her family commitments. But with Clijsters doing some “overtime” work in Marbella next week, you have to wonder how she defines “part-time”? As any part-time worker will tell you, it’s hard to turn down overtime when offered. Especially when the paychecks are this good.

Meanwhile fellow Belgian Justine Henin had another solid event that saw some stunning play but also raised new questions. Her new ranking of No. 23 will end her wildcard status (much to Elena Dementieva’s delight) but don’t you get the feeling she should have won something by now? We expected her to dominate most of the players, which she has, but as many suspected, her comeback has not been as smooth as Clijsters’s.

Henin continues to retool her serve, which is still shaky, and despite getting to the semis of Miami, it wasn’t easy especially in her long match against Caroline Wozniacki. Unlike Clijsters who appears to just enjoy playing again, Henin has that old “haunted” look about her, especially when she looks up every second to her coach. Unlike Clijsters or Serena with their outside interests and families, winning matches is all that can sustain Henin right now. But is that enough? It could be the clay that finally sees Henin shine, but for right now her second career is stuck in second gear.

Which all leads back to Serena. With her knee injury sounding more serious as the weeks go by, do you really think she’s going to risk further injury by grinding it out on the slow red clay for the next two months? With her top ranking intact no matter what the other ladies do, she will say she wants to play the French Open, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Serena waits until Wimbledon to show up on a court.

Serena can be a part-time No. 1 because the rest of the tour, even on their best days, still have a hard time matching her. Being part-time has it perks as it gives players time for other interests and I think it’s actually better for the game as it allows for new faces to shine and builds interest when those part-timers finally do return again. And it’s something Roger Federer, who’s also stated his own part-time wishes, should consult Serena about, but I’ll write about that next time.

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