I’ll spare Kim fans the cringe worthy wordplay. When your name is just one syllable, the temptation is too much, TOO MUCH I TELL YA.
It was just over 3 years ago when Kim Clijsters began her confident, self-assured procession to a US Open title, culminating in a 75 63 win over Caroline Wozniacki for the second slam of her career, in the second stage of her career.
A lot happens in 3 years – rankings change, careers bloom and wilt, injuries and desires get in the way. Day 2 and 3 of the US Open saw the exit of both Wozniacki (now title-less for over a year and struggling to stay in the top 10) and Mama Kim, who punctuated a full stop on her grand slam career with a characteristic smile and a wave.
We like to talk about the changing of the guard whenever an older player loses to a young’un, and perhaps it is. In her 67 67 loss to Laura Robson today, Clijsters was the one who looked increasingly more tentative, lingering well behind the baseline, unwilling to move out of her comfort zone. Robson on the other hand put her much underrated lefty serve to good use, and played a brand of brave, attacking tennis that might in fact benefit Murray one day in his neverending attempt to score high on the Murrayometer.
And so the tide advances. Exit Clijsters, enter Robson on the stage where the former shone the most. Or so we hope. It’s a neater, more poetic narrative for Clijsters to finish her career to a ‘Federer‘ and not a ‘Becker‘.
Yet none of it was surprising in the end. Clijsters had been plagued by injuries and planning her retirement for some time now. There was ultimately always something half-hearted and ‘gravy-on-top’ about Clijsters’ second career. Although she won more grand slams than in her first, and had gone through a more intense period of domination in her short 3 year return than she ever did in the first career, Clijsters’ second career always served to enhance the legacy of the first. As if to say: ‘look, I’ve always had it in me.‘
And so she did. That easy power, the movement and flexibility. The sense of calm and ease she brings to a sport that often inspires the very antithesis of calm and ease. During the first part of Clijsters’ career, I was in the camp that thought Clijsters had all the talent in the world, but minus the killer instinct to truly realise her talent. In her second career, Mama Kim proved me wrong and showed that maturity and self-assurance can equally be a vessel for success. Not all champions are created twisted and scarred.
So without making this sound any more like an obituary than it does: bye bye Kim. Mother, champion, and an all round nice gal.