By Jane Voigt
August 30, 2012 — Kim Clijsters’ match last night on Arthur Ashe wasn’t her best but it was her last … we’re told.
She retired once in May, 2007, but couldn’t quash a lingering notion that maybe if she geared up big in the fitness department she could make a go. So she did, trouncing the competition in the summer of 2009 and then winning the U. S. Open as a wildcard. She hadn’t played any tennis for close to two years, had missed ten successive slams, and given birth to her daughter, Jada.
That’s motivation is the sine qua nom of an authentic tennis champion, which is Kim Clijsters. She leaves the game a 4-time slam champion: The Australian Open (2011) and The U. S. Open (2005, 2009, 2010). She continues to call The U. S. Open ‘magical.’
“It’s the place that has inspired me so much to do well and to do great things,” she said on court after the match. “It’s hard to explain sometimes why.”
Clijsters had hoped to extend her run in New York; she wanted more. And apparently she always wants more competition.
“I hate to lose,” she told the press. “My husband and I, we play ping pong in our garage, and I don’t even want to give him a point.”
Looking back on the match, her shot selections seemed off at times. Why Clijsters kept hitting directly to Laura Robson is unclear. Clijsters is a master at directing the ball and her movement is a huge asset, which it wasn’t for Robson. Some alternate choices might have made that difference Clijsters yearned for.
But all kudos to Laura Robson, the 18-year-old Briton. She hung with Clijsters and tried not to think too much about the occasion.
“It’s definitely disappointing to see her retire because she’s such a great addition to the women’s game,” Robson began in her press conference. “She’s always been someone that I’ve looked up to since I started on the tour. She’s always been incredibly nice to be around. I think we’re all going to miss her.”
Robson sealed her place in history, too. She will always be remembered as the person who sent Kim to her happy post-tennis hunting grounds, just like Benjamin Becker is remembered for defeating Andre Agassi at the Open in 2008 … his last.
“It’s been an incredible journey, and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis,” Clijsters said. “To have been able to have been a part of women’s tennis, and on top of women’s tennis for so many years — you don’t think about it when you’re in it; you’re kind of an automatic pilot. No that I think about it, it’s been a crazy roller coaster at times, as well.”
Clijsters has entered three categories at this Open — women’s singles, plus women’s and mixed doubles — so fans could see her fight on through to the end of next week. But it would only be in mixed doubles. She and Kirsten Flipkens, also from Belgium, lost in their first-round match. Clijsters has a decidedly strong possibility of doing well in mixed doubles, too, because of her well-chosen Grand-Slam partner: Bob Bryan.
But that’s not the point for Clijsters. She wants to remember these two weeks as something special to tell Jada, and hopefully more children, when bedtime story hour comes in their household.
“She [Jada] was like, ‘Why don’t you come with us to go out, go for a walk?’ I’m like, ‘Mama’s almost done,’ Clijsters said. “I think she’s going to be excited to kind of have her mom around more, on a more regular kind of basis.”
Later last night, after the disappointment had somewhat evaporated Clijster’s joined tour friends. She laughed. Her picture was taken alongside Serena Williams. Samantha Stosur came by.
“She’s definitely one of those people that you can look up to and admire,” Stosur said, as reported by the AP. “I guess she’s ready to do other things.”
Whatever Kim Clijsters decides to do, you can bet she’ll do it with intensity and grace.
“The whole tour is certainly going to miss having her around,” Stosur said, simply and sincerely.