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CARSON, California: Her mind was racing. Her mobile phone was ringing. And in 35-C heat, Kim Clijsters had goosebumps.

Clijsters became the new No 1 in women's tennis on Sunday, outlasting Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 to win the JP Morgan Chase Open for her tour-high sixth title of the year.

"This is a day I'll never forget," she said, smiling.

While talking about being No 1, Clijsters still had not come to grips with her status.

"Oh, it sounds funny saying that," she said, giggling.

Clijsters takes over the top spot from the injured Serena Williams, who will trail by less than 45 points when the WTA Tour rankings come out on Monday.

"It's a feeling I cannot really describe," Clijsters said. "On the court, I had all these butterflies in my stomach and goosebumps. There were so many things going through my mind."

Clijsters, who moves up from No 2, is the first Belgian and the 12th woman to be No 1 since the rankings began in 1975.

"She's got a lot of game," Davenport said. "I think she can get better. She hits the ball hard and she plays offence and defence extremely well."

Clijsters is also the only player to be No 1 without first winning a Grand Slam title, although she will be among the favorites to win the US Open, which begins on August 25.

"It's something that always seems so far away, and it is always something that you work for," Clijsters said, referring to being No 1. "It makes you more motivated and makes you train harder."

The ranking is another achievement in a year that so far has been outstanding for the 20-year-old Clijsters. She reached the semifinals in all 14 events she has played in 2003 - she and countrywoman Justine Henin-Hardenne were tied with five titles.

Clijsters lost to Henin-Hardenne in the French Open final.

Among the callers on Clijsters' phone was her father Lei, a former pro soccer player, and boyfriend Lleyton Hewitt, the ATP Tour's former No 1. Her parents were home in Belgium, where a band scheduled a concert in Clijsters' hometown, but few showed up.

"They were all watching the match," she said. "They've always supported me. It's great to be able to give something back to them."

Clijsters said she planned a quiet celebration dinner with her coach and physical trainer. She cut and served pieces of a large cake that read "No. 1 Congratulations Kim," then wrinkled her nose upon taking a sip of champagne from a bottle presented by tournament organizers.

Later, Clijsters carried pieces of cake to fans waiting for autographs.

Williams, champion at five of the past six majors, had knee surgery on August 1 and is expected to be out up to two months. She has been No 1 for 57 consecutive weeks since July 8, 2002.

When the match ended, Clijsters raised both arms, walked to the net and kissed Davenport on the cheek. Fans chanted, "Number one! Number one!" and Clijsters tossed a white sweatband into the stands.

"I don't know how to feel," Clijsters told the crowd. "I'm a bit confused."

It was her second victory in two weeks against Davenport. She won 6-3, 6-3 last week in the semifinals of the Acura Classic at Carlsbad, California, and leads their rivalry 7-6.

Clijsters is 4-0 on hard courts against Davenport this year.

Easy for Roddick

Andy Roddick bagged his fourth title of the year with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Argentine David Nalbandian in the rain-interrupted final of the Montreal Masters on Sunday.

Roddick, seeded six, cruised to his first Masters Series victory helped by 27 unforced errors from the unseeded Nalbandian.

"It feels great," said Roddick, who remained fifth in the ATP Champions Race but moved to within eight points of third-placed Andre Agassi.

Nalbandian got a break point as soon as the opening game of the first set but Roddick's trademark cannon serve saved it. The 20-year-old American then broke Nalbandian twice.

In the second set, the players swapped breaks on unforced errors, but Roddick broke the 21 year-old Argentine twice more to win the US$2.45 million tournament a year after losing in the final to Guillermo Canas.

The match started an hour-and-a-half late because of rain, which also forced the players back in the locker room for almost an hour in the second set when Roddick was leading 4-2.

Roddick has now won 24 of his last 26 matches under new coach Brad Gilbert.

Reaching the final meant Nalbandian, Wimbledon runner-up last year, moved up 24th to 10th position in the ATP Champions Race.

Agencies via Xinhua

(China Daily 08/12/2003 page8)


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