Gritty Clijsters takes Doha title

'It seemed it would never end,' she says after Dane's fightback sends the final to a third set.

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DOHA // Kim Clijsters followed her defence of the US Open title with a display of great resilience to recapture the WTA Championships title in Qatar yesterday after an interval of seven years.

Clijsters, 27, did that with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 win over Caroline Wozniacki, the world No 1, despite not having competed at all during the seven weeks since her US Open success because of a foot operation.

The Belgian also had to recover from the disappointment of seeing the 20-year-old Dane come back from a set and 1-4 down to take the match to an enthralling decider.

"I am very relieved it is over," said Clijsters after her two-hour 20-minute victory, "because it seemed it would never end."

"It was a very tough battle, and I think it was a fine advert for women's tennis. I'm glad I won but I don't know how many more years I will play, and I think Caroline has a great future ahead of her."

It was a disappointment for Wozniacki because she had wanted to answer those detractors who questioned her status as the world's No 1 because she has not yet won a Grand Slam title.

"It was still a fantastic week for me," said Wozniacki, who made sure of the year-end top spot with her second win of the week here. "I would love to come back here, and I would love to try for this title again."

After winning the first set, Clijsters went ahead again early in the second and took what looked like a commanding lead. But with defeat looming Wozniacki appeared to relax, hitting more freely, breaking back for 3-4 and remarkably breaking again to level the match. She also broke back in the final set, levelling at 2-2 after an early setback. But it was her last real surge.

Wozniacki unaccountably stopped a rally and called for a Hawkeye replay, only to get her call wrong. When she also delivered a double fault two points later, it helped Clijsters make the break for 4-2 which decided the match.

Clijsters agreed that winning this title as a mother is arguably a greater achievement than winning a grand slam, which is only a two -week effort. But she also made it clear that "I don't look at myself as a tennis-playing mum". Instead, she said: "It's my life again now and it's what I deal with."

* Agence-France Presse