INTERVIEW-Tennis-Clijsters opts for quality over quantity

TESSENDERLO, Belgium, Sept 24 Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:33pm BST

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TESSENDERLO, Belgium, Sept 24 (Reuters) - U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters will be counting on quality rather than quantity as she tries to work her way back into the top 10 of the world rankings following her two-year maternity break.

The Belgian, who triumphed in New York 11 days ago in only her third tournament back on the tour, has employed an intense training regime as she tries to balance her duties as a mother with her tennis commitments.

"The quality of the time I put in is a lot higher now. In the past I could train maybe 4-5 hours, but the intensity wasn't always 200 percent. Now I prefer to train for two hours but the intensity is there for 200 percent," Clijsters told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

She became the first mother to win a grand slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong triumphed at Wimbledon in 1980 and has been hailed as a model for working mums around the world.

Clijsters plans to compete in 12 tournaments in four continents next year, including all four grand slams, and could add another three to four events to her schedule at a later date.

Although her 2010 itinerary is in stark contrast to her earlier playing days, when she would compete in 22 to 23 events a year, it still appears punishing for a young mother.

Clijsters, ranked 17th in the world after just a month back on the circuit, said she was confident she could successfully plan a schedule that would not disrupt her 18-month-old daughter Jada's routine too much.

"I can't play well if I'm not happy personally, so obviously my main goal is to make sure that my husband and our daughter are happy and are not struggling with the whole situation," the former world number one said.

"It's not that I will add extra tournaments to try and become number one or anything. I just hope that I can achieve good results at the tournaments that I play and get more points like that."

She was also keen to see how compatriot Justine Henin would perform.

Henin, who retired 16 months ago, announced she too would return to top flight tennis in January and admitted she had been inspired by Clijsters's successful comeback.

"It's a nice thing knowing that I can inspire other top athletes. It's a very good feeling to have," Clijsters said. "For women's tennis, it's a nice bonus (to have Henin back)."

(Additional reporting by Marine Hass, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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