Clijsters survives the cut to compete in Doha

Doha: US Open champion Kim Clijsters described how urgent was the operation which has prevented her from competing since defending the New York title six weeks ago.

Clijsters will try to win the WTA Championships, the women`s tour`s season-end tournament this week, still with a wound in the foot caused by the surgeon`s knife.

"The dermatologist in Cincinnati wanted to have it removed straightaway," she said. "I was like, `whoa, I`m playing tomorrow. I have to play a game`.

"So I had one on the inside of my thigh removed and a mole underneath my right foot, which, you know, wasn`t going to take that long.

"The stitches were supposed to be in for ten days and all should have been fine. But because it got infected, I had to take the stitches out before the wound was closed, and it took longer to heal.

"I still have a little bit of a cut. It`s not bleeding or anything. It`s closed, but there`s a scab. It`s good now. Doesn`t hurt. But I`m glad it`s over with."

Clijsters also admitted that she thought she would never play the WTA Championships again after becoming a mother and missing the last three years.

She will do so now with a preparation which has included only swimming, biking, and training toned down to reduce pressure on the foot.

Another difficulty may be coping with a younger, in-form rival inspired by the idea of becoming world number one for the first time. Caroline Wozniacki, the 20-year-old Dane, has won five of her last seven tournaments.

But Clijsters subtlely indicated some of Wozniacki`s possible vulnerabilities, whilst still giving full credit to the new top woman.

"I think she has a game that`s physically demanding," said Clijsters, mindful that matches may take place in 30-plus centigrade temperatures, even during an evening schedule.

"She`s not like a Serena who will hit a lot winners and aces. She really has to fight for almost every match she plays, which is a good thing. She brings beautiful tennis, I think, to the tour.

"But when you are number one, everybody wants to say, `I beat the number one in the world`. I think it`s something that changes for the other players"

However Wozniacki felt she will have learned from last year`s harrowing drama, when she collapsed with all-over cramps without anyone being able to touch her until she recovered sufficiently to continue playing.

"Hopefully I will not be lying on the court this year like I did then," she said. "It`s just about drinking a lot the water, a lot of energy drinks, and just keeping your fluids going.

"I feel in good shape, and that I`m ready for this. The heat, we`re used to the heat - by playing in Australia or Cincinnati or some of those other places, so I don`t think it`s going to have a big effect."

Wozniacki heads the maroon group containing Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion from Italy, Samantha Stosur, the French Open runner-up from Australia, and Elena Dementieva, the former Olympic champion from Russia.

Clijsters is in the white group with Vera Zvonareva, the Russian whom she overwhelmed in the US Open final, Jelena Jankovic, the former world number one from Serbia who has sinus problems, and Victoria Azarenka, a late substitute who will have to play within three days of winning yesterday`s (Sunday`s) Kremlin Cup final in Moscow.

That route to the semi-finals appears relatively snag-free for the sport`s most famous mum, who also has the mixed blessing of being free from daughter Jada`s distractions this week.

Bureau Report