Kim Clijsters was not just a remarkable tennis player, she is a remarkable woman. In a time where female athletes put off having a family for fame and fortune, the three time US Open champion was able to find a balance between family and tennis and she was able to dictate when her career ended and her family started.
Now, just to set the record straight: if Clijsters didn’t come out of retirement in 2009, she would still be a Hall of Famer. Her career was just that good.
But that fact the retired, started a family, then came back and was even better than before, makes her an all-time great.
Clijsters was a very easy tennis player to cover. She was chatty and friendly off the court and a beauty on the court to watch. A strong baseline player, she was able to stare down the best in the business, like Serena Williams and come up roses.
More importantly, she was just very likeable and easy to root for, which isn’t always the case for European players in America. Her likeable personality allowed the Belgian native to be treated like an American player in the US and also an Australian player down under. In fact, because of her relationship with Lleyton Hewett, she earned the nickname “Aussie Kim,” and her eventual marriage to former Villanova star Brian Lynch had her take up residence in the United States.
And the fact she was one of the few mothers on the tour later in her career made her much more likable.
But that doesn’t put her in Newport. Instead it’s the results on the court. US Open championships in 2005, 2009, and 2010 and one in Melbourne in 2011 put her up there with the all-time greats. But what was unbelievable was the win in 2009, where she essentially came off the bench to get a Flushing wildcard and plowed through the competition.
Even though most players would have put their career back in full swing, Clijsters was able to balance the court and her family.
“I don’t know how I’m going to top this, but it’s a challenge, you know,” she said after winning the 2009 US Open championship. . “It’s a challenge now at each tournament you play to try to show your best tennis and to stay in good shape, obviously. It’s something that I’m going to be, you know, really focusing on is to try to pick, you know, think wisely about my schedule and pick my tournaments and just try to really whatever I play and whenever I play, just really try to, you know, peak at certain situations.
“And, yeah, so I think it’s something that, you know, now with my coach, my physio and everybody, that’s something that we’re just going to keep focusing on, is making sure that, you know, I still work hard and everything.
“But also, they also know how important it is to have that family life at the same time. So I’m not, you know, playing next week or anything. I just want to go home and relax for a little bit.”
Clijsters was unflappable on the court and took everything with grace. She was eventually able to win another slam, which topped off her career and eventually she called it quits in 2012.
But now she is going to be immortalized for her accomplishments. It’s a fitting honor for a remarkable player.