FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Cross Sports Journalist off the list of potential careers for Kim Clijsters. When asked tonight, she gave a very quick, no.
“I definitely read the press in my first few years that I was on tour, and then I completely ignored the press,” Clijsters said. Also because positive, negative, I didn’t want it to get to me. It did when I was younger whether there was negative press, positive press.”
Well she will have plenty of time to decide after her second round loss to Brittan’s Laura Robson, 7-6 7-6, because that’s it for the three-time US Open Champion as she calls it a career.
“Now that I’m almost completely finished, you think about when I first stepped on tour, you know and met Steffi Graf and Monica Seles,” she said. “First in Belgium when I was able to practice in a tennis center against Sabine Appelmans and Dominique Monami.
“It’s been an incredible journey, and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis. As a little girl, I got tennis racquets under the tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and I would want to wear them to bed I was so excited.
“So for me to have been able to have been a part of women’s tennis, and on top of women’s tennis for so many years, now that I think back ‑‑ you know, you don’t think about it when you’re in it. You’re kind of on automatic pilot. You don’t think about those things anyway.
“Now that I think about it, it’s been a crazy rollercoaster at times, as well. All of a sudden when you’re 15, you kind of get thrown in the spotlight, you go through puberty in the spotlight, you have your first boyfriend in the spotlight, you know, everything.
“It’s not just the tennis side of things that you think about now, it’s about life. We’ve had a lot of things happen in these last 15 years that I’ve been on tour. I’m able to look back at them, and I’m very happy with the progress that I’ve made.”
And what a career it has been. Three US Open Champions (2005, 2009, 2010), one Australian Open Championship (2011) and two French Open Finals (2001, 2003) and add to that two doubles majors at the French and Wimbledon in 2003. She, of course retied once and came back looking better than ever.
More importantly, though she goes out on her terms, as she retires for the second and final (we think) time.
She is obviously an all-time great up there with her contemporaries like the Williams sisters and Justine Henin, and and even can be compared with her idols like Graf and Seles, who inspired her to become a tennis player.
“I hate to lose,” she said. “ My husband and I, we play ping‑pong in our garage and I don’t even want to give him a point. I hate to lose, but I’m very aware or I understand and appreciate when you have an opponent who’s playing really well and plays good tennis.
“I always try to be better than my opponent. I always try to find a solution to try and win a match, but I was also aware or understood that, you know, players can be better than you on the day.
“Losses have always motivated me more to go back. I have a little gym in my basement downstairs. Even when I was supposed to take a few days off, I would go into the gym and just run and do intervals and workouts to try and be better next time after a loss.”
But not this time. With her daughter Jada getting older and going to school, the travelling is just too much. Clijsters wants to be a good mother and there for her child while growing up. It makes it difficult to do that and go out on tour.
That’s may be her greatest legacy. The wins are one thing, but to balance being a mother, staying in shape after giving birth and coming back even stronger puts her in the echelon of Margaret Court.
“When I hear it, it is special, and I feel proud that I was able to win a slam as a mother, just because I know how much work it took after I had Jada to get back physically, tennis‑wise, and mentally to get back into the sport,” she mused.
“On the other hand, I never thought about that when I was playing. You know, there were moments that it was hard. Especially when I first started coming on tour it was hard to find the balance between figuring out ‑‑ when I was home, I was still working out, practicing hard, but I was 100% mom.
“If Jada was sick, I would call up and say, I need to be home now. During a tournament, I can’t call the tournament director and say, Hey, can you move my match because I need to be home for Jada or something.
“Again, you know, you have a team that you work with. Nicole, our nanny, has been maybe the most important member of our team because she’s given me so much comfort knowing that my daughter was with somebody I trust.
“When I want Brian to watch me play, Jada is with her. Whether they’re in the hotel or sitting somewhere in the stadium, it’s so comforting knowing that she’s okay. Knowing that, that’s when I’m able to play tennis and go to practice. It got a little bit easier for me to leave home when she started going to school because I didn’t have to feel that guilty of leaving her behind when I had to go to practice.
“It’s been tough at times, too. As a mother, you feel guilty if something happens that you can’t be there, good things or bad things. Unfortunately, those kind of things have been there.
“On the other hand, I know with our lifestyle I’m maybe more with her than parents who work hard and who work from 9:00 to 5:00.
“But, yeah, I think as a parent you always feel like you miss out on things or feel a little bit guilty and you want to do better and be the perfect parent.”
That’s why she is leaving. She was smart enough to know the window was closing to play professional tennis and now her life becomes her family.
At the age of 29, she made the smartest decision of them all, to be a full time mother.
She will be missed at the Open.