Clijsters defeats Hantuchova for fifth title of year

August 14, 2005 08:00 PM

CARSON, Calif. (AP) - Kim Clijsters won her WTA Tour-leading fifth title of the year, defeating Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-1 in the JPMorgan Chase Open final Sunday.

Clijsters improved to 31-1 in the United States since winning the season-ending WTA Championships in November 2003.

The 22-year-old Belgian was projected to move from 10th to eighth when the world rankings are released Monday. That will be her highest spot since October 2004, before she missed more than four months because of wrist surgery.

Clijsters needed just over an hour to polish off Hantuchova, who was playing in her first final in more than a year.

History was on Clijsters' side against Hantuchova. She has won all seven of their career meetings, including three this year. She won 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals at Stanford two weeks ago en route to the title.

Cheered by red, black and gold-clad fans waving Belgian flags and pompons, Clijsters won a close first set in which there were five service breaks. She converted all five of her break chances in the match.

She dominated in the second, losing only 12 points, and winning eight of the match's final nine games in front of an announced crowd of 7,546 at Home Depot Center.

Hantuchova was clearly disheartened in the second set, getting broken at love in the second game when Clijsters hit a backhand winner off the Slovak's second serve. She committed 33 unforced errors in the match.

Clijsters broke at love again in the sixth game to take a 5-1 lead. She rallied from a 30-love deficit on her serve to reach match point on a 102-mph ace. Then Clijsters smacked a forehand winner down the line off Hantuchova's weak service return to win.

Hantuchova will move to No. 21 in the world Monday, when injured American Lindsay Davenport begins her final week at No. 1. She will be replaced by Maria Sharapova on Aug. 22.

The Russian teenager withdrew because of a strained chest muscle before her quarterfinal match with Hantuchova on Friday. Sharapova also withdrew from the Toronto tournament beginning Monday, but she'll still have enough points to dethrone Davenport.

Clijsters earned $93,000; Hantuchova received $47,500.