by Paula Vergara
Originally Published: On the Baseline
Flushing Meadows, NY—On Wednesday, No. 23 seed Kim Clijsters, the
sentimental favorite to win the U.S. Open, was defeated by 18-year-old
Brit, Laura Robson 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) in a second round nail biter, ending
an illustrious career.
Out of the gate, three-time U.S. Open champ Kim Clijsters was
striking the ball well, and took a quick, 4-1 lead in the first set.
Robson, a 5’10” lefty, began showing signs of improvement at 2-4, at
15-30 on Clijsters' serve. But Clijsters was dominating, and won the next
3 points to go up 5-2. With the first set win clearly within reach,
Clijsters somehow lost momentum and simply wasn’t able to capitalize on
her lead. Robson fought off three set points, and won the first set
Clijsters, who typically hugs the baseline during rallies, was
consistently playing 4-5 feet behind the baseline, a sign that she
wasn’t in control of the match. Clijsters also struggled with her
returns, especially on Robson’s second serve. Robson’s aggressive,
attacking-style of game earned her two match points at 6-5, but
Clijsters managed to saved them both, setting up a second set tiebreak.
It was a tight tiebreak, with Clijsters down 3-4, but she managed to
even the score at 5-5. Robson took the lead at 6-5, and with her third
match point, she won the tiebreak, and the match, ending Clijsters’
“My biggest dreams came true here [at the U.S. Open] in 2005," said Clijsters. "This
feels like the perfect place to retire. I just wish it wasn’t today.”
Prior to this match, Clijsters had never lost to a player ranked
outside the Top 10 at U.S. Open, and hadn’t lost in the second round
since 2000, so the idea of competing against the No. 89 ranked player in
the world didn’t seem so challenging. It was evident that Clijsters
wasn’t playing her best against Robson, but still had that competitive
fire, even though she knew her tennis career was coming to a close.
Despite her second round loss at this year’s U.S. Open, Clijsters has
had a somewhat rare opportunity to end her career on her own terms. The
29-year-old has taken her time –giving herself, and her fans an
opportunity to savor those last few tournaments, and, to say goodbye.
At the beginning of Clijsters’ second career (2009), she was
admittedly coming off of a personal roller coaster. She had recently
become a new mother, and her father had just passed away. Tennis became a
form of therapy for her. “Tennis helped me to get rid of emotions and
have focus. I was able to let out a lot of energy after my Dad passed
away,” said Clijsters. “It was the perfect release for me, to think on
court about life and about what happens, and to smack the ball as hard
as you can to get the frustration out.”
After battling a series of injuries this past year, the scale started
to tip in the other direction for Clijsters. As a mother of a 4 year
old, she could no longer invest as much emotion into tennis as she once
had. The constant grind of the being on the road was beginning to weigh
on her. Simply put, home life became more difficult to put aside. This
time around, her retirement meant she was closing the tennis door for
Clijsters' legacy will be marked by her athleticism (trademark
splits), superior shot making, and grace under pressure. She is just one
of six women to have been ranked world No. 1 in singles and doubles
simultaneously (others: Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis, Serena
Williams, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, and Lindsay Davenport). She also
became the first mother to hold the No. 1 ranking since the ranking
system first started in 1975.
Having accomplished everything she set out to accomplish in tennis, Clijsters can leave the sport with a good feeling.
“It’s been an incredible journey, and a lot of incredible dreams for me have come true,” says Clijsters.
Without question, Kim Clijsters still loves tennis. She always will.
She will always have an emotional investment in the game, but the
pressure is behind her. She will be playing doubles and mixed doubles at
the U.S. Open, but now she can hit the ball for fun.