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Clijsters Moves Closer to No. 1
( 2003-08-07 10:20) (Yahoo)

Kim Clijsters moved closer to replacing Serena Williams at No. 1, beating Emilie Lott 6-1, 6-1 in 50 minutes Wednesday in the second round of the JPMorgan Chase Open.

Clijsters raced through the first set in 21 minutes, with Loit offering her only resistance in the sixth game. She fought back from love-40 on her serve to force three deuces, but then netted a backhand to give Clijsters a 5-1 lead.

In the second set, Loit had three break points on Clijsters' serve, but couldn't convert any of them and fell behind 3-1. She had four chances to hold on her serve in the next game, but Clijsters hit a backhand winner for a 4-1 lead. Loit trailed triple match point on her serve and lost when she netted a backhand.

Clijsters is on the verge of overtaking the injured Williams as the world's top-ranked player. Williams had knee surgery Friday and will be out up to two months, meaning she won't be able to defend her U.S. Open title.

Clijsters could gain the top spot for the first time in her career if she wins the tournament, beating certain players along the way. But she says being No. 2 is satisfying, too.

"I don't think ahead or plan ahead," she said. "I'm already happy with how far I got. When you're so close, it's always very motivating to keep doing well. It's never been a goal of mine. I'm not going to think differently now because I'm so close to No. 1."

Two seeded players were eliminated Wednesday.

No. 12 Eleni Daniilidou was beaten by Nicole Pratt 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, and No. 15 Alexandra Stevenson quit with a strained right shoulder while losing to Viktoriya Kutuzova 6-3, 3-3.

Other winners: No. 8 Amanda Coetzer, No. 10 Meghann Shaughnessy and No. 16 Francesca Schiavone.

Second-seeded Lindsay Davenport played Barbara Schett in the night match at the Home Depot Center, where the tournament was moved after 21 years in Manhattan Beach.

Clijsters has yet to win a Grand Slam title, although she defeated Williams in the final of last year's season-ending WTA Championships. Before reaching No. 2 this year, she had been third in March 2002, the eighth-youngest player to reach that spot.

Growing up, Clijsters' dreams were no bigger than being able to play on center court at the French Open and Wimbledon.

"As a young player, the pressure comes more from people around you to push for No. 1," the Belgian said. "I don't see a 10-year-old saying, 'I'm going to train to become No. 1 in the world.'"

Clijsters already has experienced one aspect of being near the top gossip about her relationship with former men's No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. One of the incorrect stories she saw suggested the couple had vacationed on an island near Slovenia.
"They've said I've been married already or Lleyton and I are engaged " she said, smiling. "I have no idea where they get all these things. It's amazing."
KK
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