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Clijsters Successfully Defends Title at Gaz de France
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Kim Clijsters successfully defended her title at the Gaz de France Stars tournament on Sunday after defeating qualifier Kaia Kanepi in three sets.


"Kaia was playing very well and I had to fight until the very end," said Clijsters after the match in Hasselt, Belgium.


Kanepi surprisingly stopped last year's Hasselt runner-up, Francesca Schiavone, in the quarterfinals, and broke her way into the final with Clijsters after beating Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands.


In the main draw Kanepi, the world's number 94, did not lose a single set against opponents. She also pulled off a worldwide scoop as she was the first Estonian ever to play the final of a WTA tournament.


Clijsters, the world's number six, heaped praise on her Estonian rival.


"I knew she was playing well. I was already impressed after seeing in the qualifying rounds. She sure has a great career ahead of her," she said.


"I was expecting her to be making more errors toward the end, but she didn't. I was pretty relieved to be able to break towards the end, because I often got into trouble during my own service games," added the Belgian player.


Clijsters returned to the court in Hasselt after more than two months of inactivity owing to left wrist injury incurred in Montreal, Canada.


In the final, Kanepi seemed somewhat impressed by the circumstances. After a hesitant start of both players, it was Clijsters who took the first break and a lead at 3-1. The Estonian reacted promptly, however, and rebroke immediately.


For a moment Clijsters seemed to have lost her focus a little. But Kanepi failed to take advantage of the situation and even gave in her service again at 4-3. This time Clijsters did not let her lead go and she took the first set 6-3.


In the second set, Kanepi upped her speed whereas Clijsters couldn't. Especially the forehands by the Estonian troubled Clijsters a lot. Kanepi retaliated with 6-3 as well in the second set.


The end games were even more exciting. Both players were extremely well-matched, but at 5-4 Kanepi succumbed to the pressure and the tournament title went to Clijsters.


Immediately after the Hasselt matches, Clijsters left for Madrid for the WTA Masters on Monday.


"I'm very happy to be part of it again. The Masters are one of my favorite tournaments. Despite all the injuries this year, the best eight players will be there, which is quite rewarding."


Clijsters took a cautious attitude toward Madrid tournament. "It is difficult to judge the level of the other top 10 players. The draw is heavy, with three Russian players, but then again there are no easy matches at the Masters."


(Xinhua News Agency November 6, 2006)


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