I can’t recall my first memory of Kim Clijsters, but I do have certain in my mind. Clijsters was one of the few players I wished would win every tournament she played in (Silly me)
Clijsters plays her last match against long-time rival Venus Williams in the Diamond games, Antwerp which have been dubbed as “Kim’s ‘Thank You’ Games” in the honour of Kim Clijsters.
Clijsters has been the darling of the tour for many years, there have been two versions of her, the pre-marriage version, and the post-marriage version. Which one was better, probably the later one, but it is for you to decide. Let us do a quick overview of the career Kim had.
Clijsters made her breakthrough during 1999 where she made it to the 4th round of Wimbledon, losing to Graf, and the third round of U.S Open, losing to Serena. She won her first career title that year at Luxembourg and won the “WTA Most Impressive Newcomer” award.
In 2001 CLijsters reached her first grand slam final, doing so at the Roland Garros. In doing so she became the first Belgian to reach a grand slam final, however, she lost the final to Capriati in a nail biting thriller that ended in the 3rd set in Capriati’s favour 12-10. Clijsters was also a part of the Belgian team in 2001 when Belgium won its first ever Fed cup title, Clijsters baggled Dementieva in the first set of their match.
Clijster’s first big title came in 2002 when she won the year end championships in Los Angeles. On her way to the trophy she defeated Henin in the quarter-finals, Venus in the semi-finals and Serena in the finals.
Clijsters famously squandered a 5-1 lead in the third set of her semi-final loss to Williams, at the Australian Open. Clijsters became a part of the first ever all Belgian Grand-Slam final at the Roland Garros, but lost in straight sets at the hands of Henin. However, she did win the Roland Garros doubles crown and then the Wimbledon doubles crown with partner Ai Sugiyama. On Aug 11,2003 Clijsters became the first female player to be ranked world no.1 without winning a Grand Slam in her career. Clijsters again faced Henin in the Championship of Grand Slam, this time at U.S Open, but with the same fate, Henin winning the trophy. Clijsters won the year end championships for the second time, winning all her red group matches defeating Mauresmo, Dementieva and Rubin. Clijsters then defeated Capriati in the semi-finals and Mauresmo in the finals.
Clijsters made it to her 4th grand slam final at the Australian Open in 2004, but lost at the hands of Henin once again.
Clijsters got it fifth time lucky when she finally won her first grand slam in 2005 at U.S Open defeating Venus in the quarter-finals, Sharapova in the semi-finals and Pierce in the finals.
In 2007 Clijsters retired from the professional tennis citing injuries and a desire to start family.
Post Marriage Career
In 2009, Clijsters came back to the tour as a mother, her post marriage career. In just her 3rd tournament she went on to win her second grand slam title, U.S Open 2009. In doing so, she defeated Venus Williams, then World no.3, in the 4th round, Li Na in the quarter-finals, Serena Williams, then World no.2 and defending champion, in the semi-finals and Caroline Wozniacki in the finals.
Clijsters became the first Wild Card champion in the history of U.S Open and became the first mother in the Open Era to win Grand Slam, since Evonne Goolagong won Wimbledon in 1980. Clijsters defeat of both Williamses proved that her run to the Championship was no fluke.
Clijsters defended her U.S Open title in 2010 by defeating Venus Williams in the semi-final and Zvonareva in the final. Clijsters then went on the win the year end championship.
Clijsters is one of the only 6 players to win the year end championships 3 times, the others being Navratilova, Graff, Seles, Evert and Serena.
In 2011 CLijsters finally won a slam outside the courts of U.S Open, winning the Australian Open, her 3rd and final grand slam on her return. In doing so she joined Margret Court as the only mothers to win 3 Slams after becoming mothers. 2011 also saw the return of Clijsters to the top spot as she became the first mother to clinch the top spot since the inception of WTA rankings.
Rest of the year and most of the 2012 year was marred with injuries and Clijsters retired at U.S Open 2012, in a surprise loss in the second round at the hands of Robson.
During her illustrious career, Clijsters won 41 singles and 11 doubles titles, and earned more than $24 million in prize money.
Clijsters was one of the friendliest personalities on the WTA tour, and with an interesting game to watch, she will no doubt be missed a lot. Here is to the wishing that just as she followed the right path in her tennis career, her life after tennis also follows the right path and is full of happiness and peace of mind.
I will be signing off for today with these words of Clijsters on her retirement :
“I always try to give my best in everything I do, maybe that’s something I would like to be remembered for. It feels right, I can’t describe it in any other way. It feels right and it’s surprising that I’ve kept it dry and I haven’t been crying or anything. And that’s another sign that it’s the right choice.”