Four-time Grand Slam singles champion Kim Clijsters will be working for Eurosport during Roland-Garros and here she picks out some of the players to watch in the women’s draw.
Kim’s take on the health of the women’s game:
Kim Clijsters: Well I really enjoy it. I enjoy when I am doing commentary, and I have been fortunate enough to have sat in some really cool places right behind the players or at the bottom of the court and seeing body language and things you don’t get to see when you are playing your opponent and I really enjoyed, there are a few players I have really enjoyed watching. Osaka, the final of Osaka against Kvitova was incredible, both stories to me are very powerful individually, what they went through and how they got to that stage but I love watching it. Okay, in a way it seems a player like Simona or like Caroline stand out a little bit because the hard hitters, the clean ball strikers are still in a way dominant. With Osaka, the power that she can produce behind her forehand is incredible. We saw at a certain point, I think in the British media, that they were capable of dealing – in that game they were measuring Ostapenko’s forehand speed was faster than Andy Murray’s at the French Open. Little things like that, those are things that are very interesting to me. I love seeing a player like Ostapenko, how can she do it? Every story to me is a unique story on its own, I don’t see it really as a total so it’s very, very interesting.
Thoughts on the form and fitness of Caroline Wozniacki:
KC: I don’t know exactly what are her health issues. She came out and said I think that she has arthritis or that she has rheumatoid arthritis and that she was on medication, I don’t know. When she’s out there she seems to be competing hard but I don’t know how much effect that has on her but yes, she worked so hard towards getting that Grand Slam and in a way you always feel a little bit of relief once you’ve won it and I don’t know, maybe your focus, your head, your work ethic goes down a little bit or anything but that was still one of my favourite moments, to see her win the Australian Open and knowing how much she had to deal with, never winning a Grand Slam and being number one and same for Simona for a while, it was just nice to see that by working hard and trying to stay humble and working hard you give yourself opportunities to get back and it was one of my favourite moments to see last year when she won the Australian Open. It’s interesting, to deal with the pressure and it’s the same thing you repeat for every player, every player deals with the same kind of things and you just react differently to them. I still think she is capable of playing good, I think she is better on a hard court but she can definitely can compete for a Grand Slam on any surface.
On the frustrations of Wozniacki’s injuries and their impact on practice:
KC: Yes, it must be difficult because like you said, the type of tennis that she plays, the way that she likes to move, she is not a player who is going to have a lot of short matches or short rallies. A lot of her games have long rallies and then she has to be fit to win her matches and I can imagine it is only frustrating for her but at the same time I imagine there are so many good things going on in her life with her fiancé, with David, just being able to share or experience a different side of life without always thinking about tennis and I’m very happy for her that she is able to have that. It’s interesting, every player has a different story and we definitely don’t know the whole story from everybody but it is interesting to see how players can deal with the pressure or who can take advantage of a top player who is maybe not feeling great and try to take their spot and go through the draw. It is all very interesting and I am excited for the French Open to start and to be a part of it in a small way.
Thoughts on the form and chances of Angie Kerber and her challenging at Roland-Garros:
KC: Yes, I do. I mean it all comes down to belief again. The way that she is capable of moving on clay and the way that she can defend, she has all the weapons to do it, it’s just having the belief, knowing that even when you don’t feel your best on a clay court it is good enough to win the tournament because she is good enough and so that will be, yes, it will be very, very interesting to see how she will step up and I’m sure, I’m not sure exactly if she has made her focus to try and be ready for the French Open and to be at the best way that she can be. So yes, it will be very interesting to see how she will deal with that even added pressure in a way, if it is added pressure for her. I know that she is definitely a player who I have really enjoyed watching over the years and for her to be in this position now is something very unique and I assume especially with Steffi having done it, yes, it will be very interesting to see how she will deal with that again. I’m sure when she gets to the French Open she will have a lot of questions about winning the tournament and what happens if you win and how will you feel when the tournament even starts. It’s all how you deal with those kind of things and to not let it get to you because every player knows that every match has to be played and nothing comes easily but you just have to try and keep the outside pressure at a distance a little bit.
The chances for Johanna Konta at Roland Garros:
KC: It is very nice to see that she’s been able to keep hanging in there and keep working hard to try to get the results to come back and feel good out there on court again because I’m sure these last couple of years haven’t been easy for her and one minute she’s hyped and doing great and then it all happened and it wasn’t as she expected it to be or was hoping it would be so it just shows, everybody has to work very hard to try and get good results and be consistent throughout a whole season and it’s great to see that she was capable of putting in a few wins in a row together at Rome and it’s great to have a few matches under her belt. For her getting to the French Open and to believe in herself and knowing that she can play on clay which is probably not her best surface but she is capable of causing some damage and that’s a great feeling to have. It’s all about confidence, it’s knowing what you’re good at and believing in yourself so I’m sure a few wins like that will definitely raise those kinds of feelings.
Thoughts on the form and chances of Petra Kvitova:
KC: For sure, she’s a player that has always been such a clean ball striker. Again for a lot of players their movement on clay is not the easiest but I do think that the way she hits the ball, the way she serves, the way she moves players outside the court, I do think she can beat anybody on the day but they all just have to be able to keep it going throughout the whole tournament, to keep it consistently and that’s something that I really find very interesting is on the day … To win a Grand Slam you have to be good enough on the day and seeing her do so well in Australia and the focus that she has, you can just see when she is playing there is such a calmness on her, in her, that shines out and it is so beautiful in a way to see that. I think it will be a little different on clay for her because her shots won’t have the same impact in a way but I do think she is capable and has a little bit of luck – in a Grand Slam you need a bit of luck and there are enough players who won a Grand Slam who were match point down in the first couple of rounds of the tournament so there are those kind of stories too and for sure, I do think with the experience that she has she is capable of causing damage.
Kim’s view on Karolina Pliskova’s form and coaching set-up:
KC: I have been able to step over to her team and I like the way that she is, I think she has the personality to have a good result. She is laid back, she doesn’t over stress about little things too much and I think with the experience of Conchita and the confidence she has after beating a lot of good players I think has to be very important before a Grand Slam and I think with the weapons that she has she is capable of hitting through anybody, a typical clay court player who likes to bring a lot of balls back and be more defensive, she has the shots to hit through that because she is also flat, she serves well and likes to step into the court and she can mix it up a little bit at times. She has become a little more patient too and I think Conchita’s work is a little advice from somebody who has done so well and enjoyed playing on clay. She has a very open mind, she is a player who will talk to me and ask me things and Conchita and her team pull me in just to hear about experiences and that’s what it’s all about. Nobody knows or has the secret to do it but you can just try to learn from other people’s experiences and work hard and try to use it and that’s what she has been doing it. So she definitely for me is a player who will have a big chance to win it this year.
On being surprised when current players ask for advice:
KC: It surprises me actually. It’s a pleasure, I talked with Simona a little bit when she was in her first French Open final I think it was or the second and you know with Caroline after she … in that situation where you see each other and just to help them in a way and say hang in there, keep working hard, keep doing your thing and your time will come and I’m not saying nothing nobody can know but just sharing your emotions, how I felt. I also felt like oh, maybe it’s never going to happen for me but that maybe one day you think like that and then the next day you go out and work hard again and you try to improve and you try to be better so that you can give yourself an opportunity to be in another Grand Slam final and then mentally that’s when you can use your thoughts and experiences from the year before or however long ago it was, to try not to think like that anymore, to try to not let those nerves take over, to try not to panic out there and some players, they need longer than others. It is what it is and the only thing that you can do is to keep working hard.
On whether Kim would ever consider a full-time coaching role:
KC: It wouldn’t fit within my lifestyle now with the kids and my husband has his basketball, he is a basketball coach and he has a busy life and so I’m enjoying this lifestyle. I do enjoy that I am capable of going to a few tournaments and seeing some people again, whether they are past players or people I know from the tour. It’s nice to be able to do that and still get a feel for the environment once in a while but to travel, I’ve had some requests and players contact me but I can’t do even 15, 20 weeks away from my little kids. Well my oldest isn’t that little anymore but the two youngest are two and a half and five so no, I still like to be around them.
Thoughts on Markéta Vondroušová:
KC: She can cause upsets for sure. I think whatever seeded player plays against her in second or third round or whatever, first round, yes, they are not going to be relieved in a way. She is a tough player and she’s young, energetic, it’s like she doesn’t back down from the situation either, she likes the moment so it will be interesting to see. There are definitely players who, when you look at the draw and you go through the great first matches of the first round and then you look at her, she is definitely a player that you keep an eye on and say oh, I wonder who she’s playing. When is the draw done actually?
On the experience at playing on new Court No. 1 at Wimbledon last week:
KC: It was amazing, it was an amazing experience. The court looks beautiful, for me Wimbledon is a very, very special court because it was exactly ten years before we had the celebration on centre court. It was a last minute decision when they called me, it was actually the day before and I said okay, I’ll help out if I can but it was all organised very well. You see all the Grand Slams, they don’t want to fall behind in renovating and keeping up with the renovations of the locker rooms and the VIP section, everybody is putting a lot of money back into the into infrastructure I feel like and I guess all of the Grand Slams have come to a point where some courts are maybe a little bit outdated and they feel it is time to review them and they have all done it now so I think Wimbledon building a second roof is great because we needed it on Sunday as well because it was raining so it is lucky that we were able to close it.
Eurosport’s multi-court coverage of Roland Garros begins on Sunday at 9:30.
Interview credit: Eurosport