Marion Bartoli, the undersize, eccentric Frenchwoman, knows how to play above her weight, and how to pull off an upset. This was, in other words, a big second round test for Kim Clijsters at Armstrong this afternoon.
When Bartoli won the first set, reporters in press room started saying things like, “Well maybe Clijsters isn’t ready.”
But she was! She came out storming in the second and third sets and dominated Bartoli, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.
Bartoli is one of the most intelligent players on the tour, so I wanted her to break down Clijsters’ game. Did Clijsters look champion-caliber?
“Every time I’d come up with the goods, I’d win the point and then she’d figured it out and two points later she was playing her own game and then coming up with better shots than me,” said Bartoli in the interview. “That’s pretty impressive for someone who hasn’t had any competition in two years.”
Bartoli said a second round match is a bad indicator since it isn’t precisely a nerve-inducing situation.
“The nerves will come into play in the quarters, semis or finals or when she has to play Venus or Serena, players really tough to beat at the Open. But she’s definitely a contender to win the Open.”
But wasn’t Clijsters nervous today? Playing in front of 10,000 people, she got her first real test at her first Grand Slam in 30 months. Bartoli told me Clijsters didn’t look uncomfortable for a second, even after she lost the first set.
“She didn’t send me the picture of someone looking nervous,” she said.
Well, let’s get to the point then: Can she beat Serena?
Bartoli took a deep, big sigh and shook her head.
“Serena is really tough to beat here,” she said. “It depends on Serena. When she’s on, no one in the world can beat her, honestly. If Serena isn’t playing well, and Kim is playing well, then it’s even. But right now, it depends on Serena more than what Kim can do.”