Saturday, September 10, 2005

US Open Day 13: Killer Kim Slays Her Albatross

al*ba*tross \al-buh-tros\ n. 1: any of various large web-footed seabirds; 2a: something that causes persistent deep concern or anxiety; 2b: something that greatly hinders accomplishment; 3: the avian creature former #1 Kim Clijsters has been allowing to live on her shoulder for the past four years.

Bloods and guts were sloppily spilled on the freshly painted court of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday night... and for once they didn't belong to Kim Clijsters. They didn't belong to Mary Pierce, either, though you'd have a hard time proving it after the Canadian-born, America-residing, French-representing 30-year old put forth her second feeble effort in a grand slam final in a matter of three short months. No, the carcass that was flopping on the ground a little before 10pm New York time was that of the albatross that's been Clijsters' constant companion ever since she failed to put away Jennifer Capriati in the Roland Garros final's 12-10 final set back in 2001. It took over four years, but on her fifth try "Nice Kim" transformed enough into "Killer Kim" to finally sew up the gaping hole in her career resume. The U.S. Open title is her's... and she has avian blood on her racquet to prove it.

"Albie" is dead. Long live "Albie."

Now we'll finally get to see what would have happened had Clijsters been able to fight off Capriati in Paris all those years ago, as she'll no longer be encumbered by undelivered-upon expectations. Her tennis legacy, aside from squeegeeing courts and running through puddles during recent rain delays, had threatened to become cemented by her inability to win "the big one." If her personality hadn't led so many to kiss her butt for so long, ignoring that major flaw in a one-time world #1, it would have come to define her long ago. If she hadn't walked away with her first slam title at this year's Flushing Meadows event, though, even her ardent supporters in the big-time media would have finally gotten to a point where even they could no longer avoid the obvious.

So credit Clijsters for a great last minute save, not to mention a hell of a North American hardcourt season. Four titles. A 22-1 WTA record, the last sixteen wins all in a row. A 2-0 Fed Cup record. A U.S. Open crown... and the slaying of a wing-ed creature.

Sigh... "Albie" was such a nice bird, too. Thankfully, the powers-that-be managed to FedEx one of his little chicks over to Amelie Maursesmo's address. He might be able to find a nice, comfy -- and possibly permanent -- home over there.

As for Kim, Backspin admits to being at least a little disappointed at the U.S. Open's final result. Nothing against her, but sometimes it's more fun to take a contrarian viewpoint, such as rooting against the so-called "good guy" to win out in the end. Sigh... but the Open ended up giving us a slightly cliched Hollywood ending with the "heroine" triumphing in the final act. Oh, well... on to the next easy target, I guess. Amelie (or is it "Albie?")... is that you?

Now, the big question regarding Clijsters changes from being about whether she'll ever win a slam to whether or not "Killer Kim" will soon become a "serial offender." Ah... I can already see the 2006 #1 Intriguing Question coming into focus.


Women's Final - #4 Kim Clijsters def. #12 Mary Pierce
...6-3/6-1. This time, Pierce was the squeegee. After getting whipped by Henin-Hardenne in just 1:02 in the Roland Garros final, Pierce "pushed" Clijsters to 1:05 here. In fact, the toughest, most precarious, moment for "Killer Kim" on Saturday night came during her climb up and across the Ashe Stadium railings en route to the Friends Box. For a moment there, I had visions of a very strange headline on Sunday... something like, "Clijsters Wins Open, Breaks Leg in Fall During Celebration."
Girls Semifinals - #1 Viktoria Azarenka d. #14 Mihaela Buzarnescu 3-6/6-2/6-2; #7 Alexa Glatch d. Nina Henkel 6-1/7-5
...the match-up that's seemingly been fated all along in the junior final will indeed take place, as the #1-seeded Belarussian will face the rising 15-year old American on Sunday.
Girls Doubles Final - #7 Nikola Frankova/Alisa Kleybanova d. #2 Alexa Glatch/Vania King
...7-5/7-6(3). Glatch didn't manage to keep alive her chances of a singles & doubles sweep, though.

==DAY 13 ODDS & ENDS==

**2005 SLAM FINALS**
Australian - S.Williams d. Davenport
Roland Garros - Henin-Hardenne d. Pierce
Wimbledon - V.Williams d. Davenport
U.S. - Clijsters d. Pierce

2001 V.Williams d. S.Williams
2002 S.Williams d. V.Williams
2003 Henin-Hardenne d. Clijsters
2004 Kuznetsova d. Dementieva
2005 Clijsters d. Pierce

...the streaks of women's slam champions surviving match points during the tournament, as well as coming from outside the Top 4 seeds.

...well, that does it for the Open's series of "Daily Backspin" columns. There will be a regular column on Monday, though, wrapping up the year's final grand slam and doling out 3rd Quarter awards. Also, the 3Q Quiz will be posted on the Backspin Quiz Page, the ATP 3Q Awards will be posted on ATP Backspin, and the most recent developments with "Killer Kim" will lead to a few changes on the Backspin Nickname Page.

Next week, the Russians will seek some redemption in the Fed Cup final, and there's a little tournament in Bali, as well.

All for now.


Post a Comment

<< Home