Former champion returns to form

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NEW YORK --- Three months after she had the baby, Kim Clijsters picked up a tennis racket again.

Frustrating.

"I felt like an elephant sometimes, just trying to move," she said. "Even two steps was terrible."

That was just for fun, though. She has been much more committed since deciding earlier this year to come back in earnest. Now, Clijsters finds herself two wins from a U.S. Open title hardly anyone could have seen coming.

The mother of 18-month-old Jada , Clijsters dismantled 18th-seeded Li Na , 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals Tuesday, punishing China's top tennis star with deep, stinging groundstrokes that were part of a game that looked about like it did when Clijsters retired two years ago.

"I'm surprised to be sitting here talking to you right now," she said.

Back at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2005, when she won the tournament, Clijsters now has a winning streak of 12 matches at Flushing Meadows.

WHAT RECESSION? Fans are turning up at the U.S. Open in record numbers.

The tournament set a Week 1 attendance record of 423,427, including a single-day mark of 61,554 for Friday's combined day and night sessions.

RANKINGS REVERSAL: A day after saying that Serena Williams could move past No. 1 Dinara Safina in the Sept. 21 WTA rankings by reaching the U.S. Open final, the tour reversed itself.

Instead, the tour clarified, Williams could rise from No. 2 a week after the tournament ends "if (and only if)" she were to win the U.S. Open.

Williams has won three of the past four major championships while Safina is still seeking her first Grand Slam title.

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