Originally created 07/06/06

Friends, not wins, matter to Clijsters

WIMBLEDON, England -When a match ends, genial Kim Clijsters greets her opponent at the net with a smile and a kiss on each cheek, win or lose. She puts friendships ahead of championships.

"To me, results don't matter at all," she said. "I like to make friends on the tour, knowing that if I stop, I can still call girls and still hang out with girls and meet up and catch up. That to me is more important, and that's something that I prefer to take away.

"Trophies don't talk to you when you retire. When you are at home and sitting on a couch, you can look at your trophy room, but that's not going to talk to you."

Clijsters will be bidding for her first berth in a Wimbledon final when she plays Justine Henin-Hardenne in an all-Belgian semifinal today.

Clijsters lost her first four Grand Slam finals before she claimed the U.S. Open title last year, disproving the theory that she was too nice to win a major. However, the theory persists that she's too nice to win a big match in her rivalry with Henin-Hardenne, whose grit ranks among her greatest attributes.

They've played 19 times since 2001, with Clijsters winning 10. But Henin-Hardenne has won their past four meetings in majors, including three times in finals and in the semifinals at the French Open in June, which she went on to win.

The result: Henin-Hardenne has five Grand Slam championships and Clijsters one.

"It will be a tough match," Henin-Hardenne said. "The best will win."

There are doubts about Amelie Mauresmo's big-match mettle, too. She won her first major title at the Australian Open in January, but her path was eased when opponents Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne retired because of ailments in the final two rounds.

With semifinal losses in her past three appearances at Wimbledon, the No. 1-seeded Mauresmo will try again against No. 4 Maria Sharapova.

"I don't think I have anything to prove to myself, or to anybody," Mauresmo said. "I just want more. I want to be able to have some more great matches with great emotions and try to get some titles."

For the fifth time in the past 25 years, the semifinals feature the four top-seeded women. Each has been No. 1, and the quartet includes the winners of the past three Grand Slam events.


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