Kim Clijsters said goodbye to tennis the way she played it — with a smile on her face.
The 29-year-old announced earlier this year that the US Open would be her final professional tournament, but the end had not been expected to come so soon.
Belgian Kim Clijsters waves to the crowd after losing her US Open second round match to Briton Laura Robson yesterday. Right: Clijsters’ three US Open triumphs. Pics/AFP
Clijsters looked in control at 5-2 up in the first set of her second-round match against 18-year-old British player Laura Robson, but the teenager got better and better and eventually ran out a 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (7/5) winner.
It was the biggest victory of Robson’s career and, although Clijsters still has doubles to come, hopes of a fairytale ending for the three-time US Open champion are now over.
The Belgian said: “I think the first hour after the match there was still disappointment and a little bit of frustration. I still had that routine of going through the match and trying to figure out how to do it better next time.
“But obviously now, after talking and thinking about the retirement in singles, I’m happy.
“I’m happy that in the last year and a half or even two years it’s been kind of up and down, and I’m happy that I stuck through it. I’m in a way proud of myself that I was able to do that. So I feel happy. I have doubles tomorrow, so I’ve got to stay focused.”
Clijsters has had a remarkable run at Flushing Meadows, winning the title on her last three appearances in 2005, 2009 and 2010.
Injury & motherhood
In the intervening years the Belgian was either injured or in her first period of retirement, when she had daughter Jada, and her last loss in New York came in the final in 2003, when Robson was just nine years old.
“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 (Christmas) tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles... I’d 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 it for so many years... you don’t think about it when you’re in it.
“Now that I think about it, it’s been a crazy rollercoaster at times. All of a sudden when you’re 15, you get thrown in the spotlight, you go through puberty in the spotlight, you have your first boyfriend in the spotlight, 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.”