Clijsters upbeat despite Wimbledon exit

London: Kim Clijsters claims she is a stronger player than the one who stunned the tennis world by winning the US Open last year.

The Belgian, who bowed out of Wimbledon in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, came out of a two and a half year retirement to win the season`s final Grand Slam last September.

Her stunning return suffered a setback when she missed the French Open this year with an ankle injury and a three-set defeat to Vera Zvonareva in the last eight at the All England Club was another blow.

But Clijsters insists she will be even more of a force to be reckoned with when she starts her defence of her crown in New York later this year.

"I think I am more focussed than I used to be. It takes time and this was my first time back at Wimbledon. I haven`t been back for a year yet," Clijsters said.

"Having not been able to play in the second Grand Slam of the year I would have liked to have done better here.”

"It was disappointing to come from five or six weeks without hitting one ball. That was probably not a great preparation but I am not blaming that at all.”

"I have played really well since I came back. I played two good matches at Eastbourne and I played some good tennis here."

And Clijsters admitted the game had changed since she retired in May 2007 because there are many more contenders for Grand Slam titles than there were three years ago.

At Wimbledon, defending champion Serena Williams is only player seeded in the top 20 to make it through the last four.

The unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova made the semi-finals by knocking out five-time champion Venus Williams and the unheralded Petra Kvitova is also in the last four.

Clijsters added: "There are a lot of young players out there who can make it hard for the top players.”

"It is good to see new names going well and see them doing well at Grand Slams.”

"These are girls who have probably beaten a lot of players in the past but probably not in the spotlight when all the media were around to see it.”

"They can all hit the ball well - you don`t get to a quarter-final or a semi-final by luck."