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FILDERSTADT, Germany: Defending champion Kim Clijsters held on to her world No 1 ranking with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over fellow Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne to retain her Filderstadt Grand Prix title on Sunday.

Clijsters took a little more than two hours to overpower Henin-Hardenne, who could have grabbed the world No 1 spot herself with a victory.

It was the eighth time the Belgians have met this year. Each has four wins apiece but, significantly, two of Henin-Hardenne's victories came in the French and US Open finals.

"It's great, especially in a match that long, to finish as the winner," said Clijsters, who was kept awake during the night by the snoring of her English bulldog beside her bed.

"These types of matches make tennis so much fun, when you're out there and battling for each point. The first two sets were really close, and it came down to that final set and it was now or never. I really enjoy those kind of situations."

It was only the fourth time in 21 years that a European WTA Tour final has featured the world's top two players.

But in a match of lengthy baseline rallies, top-seeded Clijsters was the stronger player in the final set after the first two sets had been closely contested.

Although her serve was not working to its normal standard - she fired down just one ace as she held to lead 5-2 in the final set - Clijsters proved the more persistent player.

"That was the first time, probably, that I've finished stronger than her," said Clijsters. "I was definitely a little bit surprised with the way I felt, because when I was home with my ankle injury I didn't do a lot last week. I was just resting and in the pool."

"It was tough physically, a lot of long rallies, and I was tired a little bit," said Henin-Hardenne, explaining her late collapse. "I had to fight a lot and just tried to keep going, and then I felt the match was going away from me.

"But it's okay. It's always disappointing to lose, for sure, but it's not the end of the world. On Wednesday I have another match."

She insisted that having the chance to take over the No 1 ranking had not been her objective going into the match.

"It wasn't my main goal today," she said. "I was going on the court to win Filderstadt. That was the only thing that I thought about.

"Being No 1, if it's this week or next week or at the end of the year, it's great. But that's not everything. When I go on the court it's to win the match, and then see what happens after."

In Lyon, France, German top seed Rainer Schuettler outclassed France's Arnaud Clement 7-5, 6-3 to win his second straight tournament victory at the Lyon Grand Prix on Sunday.

A winner in Tokyo a week ago, Schuettler overcame fatigue to outpace and outwit Clement, who had also won a tournament last week in Metz.

The match was a one-sided affair and Schuettler, who qualified for the Masters Cup in Houston after reaching the semi-finals in Lyon, won in one hour and 50 minutes.

The German, who reached his first final of a grand slam tournament in Australia in January, has had by far his best season on the circuit at the age of 27.

It was Schuettler's fourth tournament victory and the first outside Asia, having claimed his previous ones in Doha, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Federer defends title

In Vienna, Wimbledon champion Roger Federer overpowered Carlos Moya 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to win the CA Trophy for the second straight year and secure his sixth title of the season on Sunday.

"It was very important for me to come back and try to successfully defend my title. I'm over the moon I finally managed it here today," Federer said.

The 22-year-old is basking in his best season on the ATP Tour, and is the most prolific winner this year with 67 match wins. He has already qualified for next month's season-ending jamboree at the Masters Cup in Houston.

The Swiss has now beaten Moya, the 1998 French Open champion, in each of their three encounters, including last year's semi-final at this 765,000-euro (US$897,700) hardcourt event.

Moya is competing for one of the two remaining tickets to next month's Masters Cup, standing in seventh place in the ATP Champions Race with the top eight qualifying.

The points he earned from reaching the Vienna final cement his position ahead of the injured Argentine David Nalbandian.

Agencies via Xinhua

(China Daily 10/14/2003 page8)


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