Tennis

Seventeen-year-old Clijsters wins Sparkassen Cup

Kim Clijsters, a 17-year-old Belgian ranked No. 420 less than two years ago, took another big step in her career Sunday by beating Elena Likhovtseva 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-4 to win the Sparkassen Cup.

Clijsters already has won three titles since joining the WTA tour. She will move to No. 20 in the rankings, the youngest among the world's top 100 players.

The daughter of well-known Belgian soccer player Leo Clijsters, Clijsters beat the seventh-seeded Russian after upsetting Anna Kournikova and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario en route to the final of the $535,000 tournament.

Clijsters fought off five set points to save the first set. In the final set, she struggled to hold serve as her play suddenly grew erratic. But she recovered and ended the match with an overhead smash amid wild cheers from the crowd.

"I wasn't feeling great today," said Clijsters, who also reached the doubles final. "My legs felt all the long matches this week, but I just kept fighting."

Likhovtseva, ranked 25th, had reached the final by upsetting top-seeded Nathalie Tauziat.

Clijsters came through with her best tennis. At 4-4 she broke serve, then fought off two break chances in the next game before closing the match.

She trailed 6-3 in the first-set tiebreaker, then ripped off one of her powerful cross-court forehands and charged the net for a rare volley point, fending off three set points.

"I have no idea how I do that," she said. "I just try to stay calm and make the points happen myself."