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Clijsters wins to keep No. 1 ranking
( 2003-10-13 16:29) (Agencies)

Kim Clijsters defended her No. 1 ranking by rallying to beat No. 2 Justine Henin-Hardenne 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 Sunday for the Porsche Grand Prix title.

Belgium's Kim Clijsters returns the ball to compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne in the final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Filderstadt near Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, Sunday, Oct.12, 2003. Clijsters won in 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. [AP]
Henin-Hardenne, who beat Clijsters in all-Belgian finals at the French Open and U.S. Open this year, was trying to move atop the WTA Tour rankings for the first time.

Instead, Clijsters held on to the spot she took from Serena Williams in August. It was just Clijsters' second victory in seven tries against Henin-Hardenne in 2003.

"Playing matches like this is what playing tennis is all about. It was so close," said Clijsters, who defended her title at the tournament and won a silver Porsche convertible.

"I enjoyed being in this situation. It's a bonus to be No. 1 for another week, but that's not the important thing to me."

This was the eighth time since the computer rankings began in 1975 that Nos. 1 and 2 met for the top spot. The last was when Williams beat her sister Venus in the 2002 U.S. Open final.

Before that, the world's top two female tennis players last faced each other with No. 1 in the balance at the 1995 French Open, when Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne have dominated the women's game in the absence of the injured Williams sisters. The Belgians are tied for the tour lead with seven titles this year.

Clijsters is the only player to reach No. 1 without having won a Grand Slam.

"I don't care what they say," she said. "Even if I stay the only No. 1 never to have won a Grand Slam title, then I'll be in the record books, won't I? That's good, too."

Clijsters proved the sharper player on the decisive points in the second and third sets.

"I'm disappointed because I didn't win the tournament, not because I'm not No. 1," Henin-Hardenne said. "If it happens this week, next week, or at the end of the year, I don't care."

Since she is the defending champion at Linz in two weeks, and will have to win there just to retain her points, Henin-Hardenne's next chance to pass Clijsters may not come until the season-ending WTA Championships next month in Los Angeles.

Clijsters showed some grit in the second set. Leading 4-3, her powerful returns set up four break chances. Henin-Hardenne pumped her fist after warding off the second break chance.

Clijsters responded by twice putting forehand returns near the line. The first missed by an inch; the second hugged the line for the break. Clijsters then served out the set.

Clijsters made the decisive break in the final set, needing three tries before jumping ahead 4-2. She then sent a forehand into the open court to win the match.

"It was a tough match," Henin-Hardenne said. "Kim was just better today."

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