PARIS — Kim Clijsters received a special trophy, and the Open Gaz de France isn’t even over yet.
That’s what happens when you return to the top of rankings.
Clijsters beat Jelena Dokic of Australia 6-3, 6-0 on Friday to reach the Paris semifinals and will replace Caroline Wozniacki at the top when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“I’m very happy to be No. 1 again,” Clijsters said after collecting the trophy and a giant No. 1 made from flowers.
The 27-year-old Clijsters has held the top ranking three times before, but not since 2006. She retired in May 2007 before marrying U.S. basketball player Brian Lynch and giving birth to a daughter, Jada, in February 2008.
Since making her competitive return in August 2009, Clijsters has won three Grand Slam titles, and is the current champion at the U.S. and Australian Opens. Wozniacki is still chasing her first major.
“I’m older, a little more experienced,” Clijsters said. “I’m able to enjoy all the things that are happening now in a different way. I’m able to share it with a bigger group and with my team. That’s what I enjoy the most about this second career.”
The 256-week stretch between Clijsters’ last stretch at No. 1 and her current one is the second longest in ATP or WTA history, beaten only by Serena Williams (265 weeks).
As the stadium speakers blasted Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best,’ the WTA put on a special presentation to celebrate Clijsters’ achievement.
“It’s weird because you’re in the middle of a tournament,” Clijsters said. “You’re doing a speech, you’re getting a trophy and flowers, so it’s a little bit weird but exciting as well.”
Clijsters reeled off 12 consecutive games against Dokic, who led 3-0 in the first set.
“She came out strong and served well and was returning well,” Clijsters said. “I kind of just got overpowered by the way she was playing. But I knew that if I could win a couple of rallies, I would be able to turn things around.”
Clijsters next plays Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, who beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.
“I think it’s unbelievable,” Kanepi said about Clijsters’ successful comeback. “She must be very talented. Not many players can do that.”
But Kanepi also was looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s great to play against the world No. 1,” Kanepi said. “I think it’s great to beat the No. 1. If it happens.”
Also Friday, Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States upset sixth-seeded German Andrea Petkovic 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3 and will face Petra Kvitova in the semis. Kvitova edged Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Mattek-Sands said Clijsters deserved to hold the No. 1 ranking.
“To have Kim come back, win two Slams in a row now, I think she’s definitely deserving of it,” Mattek-Sands said.
“Nothing against Caroline, she’s had a very consistent year last year. That’s deserving as well.”
Amelie Mauresmo, the tournament’s co-director and a former top-ranked player, praised Clijsters’ performance.
“What she has achieved is quite extraordinary,” Mauresmo said. “It’s a bit surprising because she suffered a lot injuries in her first career. But she stopped at a young age, so she’s physically able to still be very competitive.
“That she becomes again the No. 1 is quite logical. Serena is not able to be fit. Wozniacki is very consistent but so far she hasn’t peaked yet.”