It’s redemption time at the Olympics. Yesterday Novak Djokovic turned around a weak Wimbledon performance with a strong win; today it was Kim Clijsters’ turn to do the same. Clijsters, who is retiring after this summer, made her final exit from Wimbledon in feeble fashion, losing 1 and 1 to Angelique Kerber and hurrying away as quickly as she could. But it was a very different Clijsters who walked back on Court 18 today to face Ana Ivanovic in the third round of the Games. This was a determined Clijsters, one who, uncharacteristically, wasn’t afraid to show how much she wanted to win. I don’t think I’ve ever heard as many “Come on!”'s or seen as many fist-pumps from her in one match.
In truth, the unseeded Clijsters didn’t have much to worry about in her straightforward 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 11 Ivanovic, and she never appeared to seriously doubt the outcome. She played with her usual dispatch—despite the fairly close scores, the match took just 54 minutes—and kept a tight rein on her ground strokes. Clijsters finished with just 13 winners compared to Ivanovic’s 23, but she committed just nine errors. Her first serve was a difference maker; she made nearly 70 percent of them, and won 84 percent of those points. Kim’s only notable flaw today were her four double faults, which tended to come at tight moments.
But she made up for those lapses in the rallies, which were fast-paced and no-nonsense as well. The crucial moment came at the start of the second set. Serving at 0-1, Clijsters double-faulted twice and faced two break points. Both times she came up with service winners and eventually held. Energized, she cracked a backhand winner to reach break point in the next game, and converted with a sharp-angle forehand volley—and a fist-pump.
Clijsters will face either Maria Sharapova or Sabine Lisicki next, and if she can play with the kind of quiet confidence she showed today, she’ll be tough to beat. You never know which Kim will show up, but as of today she looks like she wants this final hurrah at the All England Club to be happier than her last one.