Four-time Grand Slam singles champion Kim Clijsters says she’s looking forward to her career’s end.
A 6-1, 6-1 Wimbledon fourth-round loss in 49 minutes to No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany brought that closer yesterday, marking the end of a run at the grass-court tennis tournament that began in 1999.
The 29-year-old is the mother of four-year-old Jada, and is struggling with injuries. The right-hander from Bree, Belgium, will return to the All England Club for the London Olympics and then retire from the women’s tour for a second time after the U.S. Open in August.
“In a few months, it will all be different,” Clijsters said in a televised interview after her match. “I will be a wife and mother again.”
Although she never made the championship match at Wimbledon, losing in the semifinals in 2003 and 2006, Clijsters has only good memories when it comes to playing on the grass courts in London.
She said she first became aware of Wimbledon as a child, watching the tournament on television from Belgium during the school summer holidays.
“When I was able to be here for the first time as a junior, it was just very special,” Clijsters told reporters. “To me this was like Disneyland to another child. It was such a beautiful thing.”
Andy Murray, the No. 4 seed from Britain, today resumes his fourth-round match against Marin Cilic of Croatia leading 7-5, 3-1 after it was suspended for rain yesterday along with two other men’s singles matches. Two other round of 16 matchups are yet to begin. Four-time women’s title winner Serena Williams of the U.S. plays defending champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in a quarterfinal.
With a game built on athleticism and aggressive baseline play, Clijsters has been vulnerable to injuries throughout her 15-year professional career.
She was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles in 2003 and won 34 career titles before retiring in May 2007 at the age of 23. The Belgian, one of the most popular players on the women’s tour, had her daughter in February 2008 with her husband, U.S. basketball player Brian Lynch. Her father, former international soccer player Lei Clijsters, died in January 2009.
“I have a lot of good memories, a lot of special memories also emotionally with my family and with my dad,” Clijsters said. “Wimbledon is a nice place to go back to every year.”
Following a 20-month break, Clijsters returned to the women’s game in 2009, and promptly won the U.S. Open as a wild-card entry. She successfully defended her title in New York in 2010, and also won the 2011 Australian Open.
This season, Clijsters has struggled physically, missing the clay-court swing in Europe because of a hip injury. Three days before the start of Wimbledon, she pulled out of the semifinals of the Unicef Open in the Netherlands because of an abdominal injury.
She said she won’t be leaving Wimbledon with any regrets.
“I know that every time that I’ve played here I’ve given my best,” Clijsters said. “I’ll never say that I didn’t work hard enough or I didn’t practice hard enough. So I don’t think I’ll feel sorry about anything when I leave.”