The number three just might become Kim Clijsters’s favorite number. Many considered the Belgian the favorite going into the WTA Championships in Doha this week and she didn’t disappoint. Despite a second set letdown in today’s final against Caroline Wozniacki, Clijsters found the thread late in the third set to win her third year-end championships title 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. With the win, Clijsters finds herself at No. 3 for the year in the WTA rankings and with her five titles including the U.S. Open, many are saying Clijsters is the player of the year.
After winning the first set by breaking Wozniacki during a protracted eleven minute game, Clijsters’s stifling defense along with Wozniacki’s inability to hit easy winners, especially on her forehand side, saw the Dane go down another early break 3-2 in the second set. Even with Wozniacki’s father on court giving advice, it looked like Clijsters’s power would overwhelm Wozniacki and when Clijsters went up 4-1, the match looked close to ending.
But Clijsters, as she did in previous matches this week, suffered a letdown of concentration and form allowing Wozniacki to break back and eventually square things at 4-4. Only then did Wozniacki start hitting winners on her forehand side and dictating play from the baseline. After closing out the set and going up an early break in the third, Wozniacki appeared to have momentum on her side.
Clijsters however found her game at the right time breaking Wozniacki and then holding for 2-1. On the changeover, Wozniacki, while using an icebag to cool her head, debated with her father on court on what to do next. But not even “Papa Woz” could come up with the right answer when, after a long rally at 2-3, 15-30 seemed to tire Wozniacki, she lost serve allowing Clijsters to race out to a 5-2 lead. Clijsters served for it at 5-3 and despite going down an early 0-30 on her serve and double faulting on her first match point, finally closed out the title with another service winner.
For Clijsters, who earns her 40th title of her career with the win, it’s a tremendous finish for the season that saw her win big events in Miami and Cinncinati along with her third U.S. Open title. Clijsters once again proved that when her game is on, especially her ability to turn defense into offense, she is very hard to beat. Wozniacki, despite making the match competitive, will once again hear the voices of critics who say that even though she is now No. 1, her style of play is still not enough to defeat players like Clijsters, Serena Williams or even Justine Henin who use power to their advantage. Wozniacki will win a Grand Slam and even a YEC one day, but she’ll need to beat one of those three players in their prime in a Slam somewhere soon. Plus, with on-court coaching not allowed at Grand Slams, Wozniacki, especially now as the top player in the world, must find a way to not rely so much on her father. Maybe that will come in time, but it doesn’t look good for her or the tour when the top player on the WTA appears to need coaching advice more than anybody else.
Clijsters’s win today caps off another dramatic YEC that many said would be lackluster without the Williams sisters in contention. But with Elena Dementieva’s shock retirement announcement along with the quality of today’s match, the WTA, after another turbulent season, at least can end on a high note and the hope that 2011 will be even better.