Clijsters takes quick route

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:53 PM ET

KIM CLIJSTERS cracked a lot of smiles, but barely broke a sweat.

Four matches in the Rogers Cup. Four victories.

Total games won: 48. Total games lost: 15.

The affable Clijsters blew through the field much like the massive thunderstorms that blew through southern Ontario last Friday.

"It was a quick one," said Clijsters, who yesterday topped off her week in Toronto with a tidy 7-5, 6-1 victory over Belgian compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne in the singles final of the $1.3-million US Rogers Cup.

Clijsters earned $189,000 for the tournament victory, which was her first in Canada. Henin-Hardenne, who won this event two years ago, took home $95,900.

Considering Clijsters' cumulative performance at the Rexall Centre at York University, she easily confirmed her status as one of the favourites to win the final Grand Slam tournament of the year, the U.S. Open, which begins next week in New York.

Clijsters never has won a Grand Slam event, although she claims she is not nearly as bothered by that as the media seems to be.

Tennis careers don't last forever, but it still was a little shocking yesterday to hear the 22-year-old Clijsters hinting at retirement.

"I'm at least going to play a couple of more years, three more years, and we'll see," Clijsters said.

"I still would like to have a healthy body when I'm a little older. I don't think my body can handle this lifestyle for that much longer."

Well, Clijsters certainly avoided putting too much wear and tear on her body this week. That's what happens when your opponents don't have any idea how to deal with you.

Henin-Hardenne has a well-earned reputation for being as tough as nails both mentally and physically, but she admitted she was pretty tired yesterday.

She had played late matches three nights in a row, and on Friday she wasn't off the court until after 11:30 p.m. because of a lengthy rain delay.

"I haven't been in bed before 1 a.m., the past three days," Henin-Hardenne said. "That didn't help me (yesterday). But I don't have any excuses."

Clijsters now has a 10-9 lead on Henin-Hardenne in head-to-head meetings that date back to 1998.

"It's always great to beat players you've lost to a few times," Clijsters said. "Especially against her, I've lost some big matches already. So it's great to win some as well.

"But any tournament victory means a lot. I don't know, for some reason, since my (wrist) injury (last year), (tournament victories) mean twice as much to me now. I enjoy it a lot more."

Total attendance for the Rogers Cup was 136,789. In 2003, the same tourney at the rickety old National Tennis Centre at York University attracted 140,007 fans.

Prior to the event this year, tournament director Stacey Allaster said she was hoping for a crowd count between 155,000 and 160,000. But withdrawals by the most recognizable players in women's tennis -- Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams and Serena Williams -- obviously impacted the gate.


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