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Clijsters hopes to play 'couple more years'

Kim Clijsters is back at the U.S. Open, and she aims to be back in professional tennis for a couple of seasons, not merely a couple of months.
/ Source: PhillyBurbs.com

Kim Clijsters is back at the U.S. Open, and she aims to be back in professional tennis for a couple of seasons, not merely a couple of months.The 26-year-old Belgian is playing in the American Grand Slam tournament for the first time since she won it in 2005. Now married and a mother, she recently came out of retirement, and this tournament marks her Grand Slam debut since returning to the tour."Coming to the courts, it's obviously a very nice feeling, and it brings back a lot of memories, although a lot of things have changed," Clijsters said Saturday, two days before play begins at Flushing Meadows."I remember just walking through the corridors here," she said, "walking up to the center court for the finals."Her husband Brian Lynch, an American who played professional basketball in Europe, ended his career to allow Clijsters to get back to hers. The whole family, including 1-year-old daughter Jada, is in New York.As Clijsters prepared to return after two years off the circuit, she wasn't specific about how long she planned to play. But she made clear Saturday that this is more than a brief experiment.Instead, her time on tour in 2009 is in many ways her effort to be ready to go full time in 2010."I hope to just get myself and my ranking up there, so hopefully I can do a couple more years or so," Clijsters said. "So I'll kind of just see ... this kind of as a trial and so that I can just get used to everything again. So once I get started in January, I can just hopefully be ready to go."Clijsters won five of seven matches in two hard-court events leading to the U.S. Open, including victories over French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli and No. 8-ranked Victoria Azarenka.That caught people's attention."I have to say, I was a little shocked," defending U.S. Open champion Serena Williams said Saturday. "I expected her to do well, but it looks like she took a week off."Clijsters herself liked what she saw right away, particularly in the first match of her comeback, a straight-set win over Bartoli at the Cincinnati Open on Aug. 10."I even was a little surprised out there," Clijsters said. "Just, you know, the way I was playing and moving and seeing the ball."___MURRAY ON MURRAY: The Andy Murray of today is a vast improvement over the Andy Murray who reached the final at the 2008 U.S. Open.Just ask Murray himself."I feel like I'm playing a lot better," he said Saturday. "My consistency has been a lot better, and physically I feel stronger than I was last year in terms of natural parts of my game. There's not one thing I would take out that's got a lot, lot better, but I think everything's just got that little bit better _ and that's the difference when you get close to the top."Murray is about as close to the top as you can get: He has moved up to No. 2 in the ATP rankings, overtaking Rafael Nadal.What the 22-year-old Scot has not yet done, but is sure he will one day, is win a major."It's one of the few things that I want to do now in tennis _ win a Slam. It's something that is incredibly difficult to do, but something that I believe is possible," Murray said. "A lot of players say when they win their first Slam it's sort of a relief because it's so much hard work that you put into it. So, you know, I'm hoping I can do it here."His best Grand Slam showing came at Flushing Meadows in 2008, when he reached the final before losing to Roger Federer.Murray never previously had made it past the quarterfinals at a major. But he beat Juan Martin del Potro at that stage, then knocked off Nadal in the semifinals.It proved to Murray he could withstand the rigors of best-of-five matches over the course of a two-week event."The last couple years I worked very, very hard on my fitness," he said, "so I'm hoping it's not going to be a problem ever again."While fans at home would love to see Murray be the first British male champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, Murray has long professed his love for the U.S. Open.Part of it is the success he had as a junior, winning the U.S. Open boys' title in 2004. Part of it is the New York atmosphere. Part of it is the electricity of night sessions.And, perhaps, part of it is that Murray is under a tad less scrutiny on this side of the pond."People are not sort of following you back to the hotel, whereas back home, you can get people waiting outside your house or ,following you to dinner if you want to go out," Murray said. "It's obviously like that here. So it makes it a little bit easier to sort of relax away from the court, I guess."___GOING GREEN: Actor Alec Baldwin and tennis great Billie Jean King are serving as spokespeople for the U.S. Open's efforts to be more environmentally friendly.The tournament placed more than 500 recycling receptacles across the grounds, is recycling the thousands of metal-and-plastic ball cans used during the event, and is using post-consumer waste for all printed materials, including tickets and daily draw sheets."Hopefully, this will become a model and a blueprint for other such events in terms of recycling," Baldwin said Saturday.