x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Clijsters happy to see her level rise on return as good run ends

Kim Clijsters has every right to be proud of the way she has eased herself back into the top echelons of women's tennis after spending two years in temporary retirement.

Kim Clijsters has every right to be proud of the way she has eased herself back into the top echelons of women's tennis after spending two years in temporary retirement, getting married and starting a family. The Belgian, a former world No 1, left today's crop of leading players in no doubt that she is again a match for any of them and will be the opponent the top seeds will all want to avoid in the early rounds of the forthcoming US Open at Flushing Meadows.

Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder and Svetlana Kuznetsova were all stunned by the quality of the Clijsters comeback. It was left to the top-seeded Dinara Safina to put an end to growing suggestions that the Belgian was about to enjoy an ideal title-winning return. Clijsters, who described her comeback last week as the beginning of her "second career", was excited by the immediate success she enjoyed in Cincinnati.

"So far it's working," she said after her 6-2, 7-5 defeat. "I had really good results and feel my level here has risen. I feel like I want to go out there and do it all over again." She then praised Safina, whom she had beaten six times out of seven in the first phase of her career. "Dinara played some of her best tennis that I've seen," Clijsters said of the much-maligned world No 1. "That's the best she's ever played against me."

Safina, criticised by some of the other top players including Serena Williams, for holding the top ranking without having won a grand slam, was seeking to consolidate her position in last night's semi- final against the in-form Italian Flavia Pennetta. Russia's Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic, of Serbia, the fourth and fifth seeds, emerged from a competitive bottom half of the draw to reach the other semi-final.

wjohnson@thenational.ae