Kim Clijsters: The World Cup (and Wimbledon) in mind

The Belgian talks to Paul Newman about motherhood, her return to SW19 and her father's goal against Uruguay at Italia '90

Kim Clijsters is looking forward to her first Wimbledon for four years but admits she will not be giving it her undivided attention next week. Not only does she have her two-year-old daughter, Jada, to care for, but she will also have half an eye on events in South Africa.

The current World Cup is the first since the death last year of Clijsters' father, who was a key member of the Belgium team that reached the 1986 semi-finals in Mexico. Four years later, when Kim was seven, Leo Clijsters played in Italia '90 as Belgium were knocked out by David Platt's last-minute winner for England.

"Italy was the tournament of his I remember the most, but I think Mexico was more special for him," Clijsters recalled. "In the last few weeks they have been showing a lot of past Belgium games from the World Cup on television, particularly as Belgium aren't in this World Cup. My Dad's name came up a lot. It's mixed emotions. I miss him, but I'm also very proud."

Did she remember her father scoring against Uruguay in Italia '90? "Yes, it was a header," she said. "As the daughter of a footballer you think the goal is important, but you also think of other things – the presents he brought home, little things like that. He brought back big sombreros from Mexico, with the clapping hands on top. He kept a lot of the Belgian shirts he wore and some he swapped with other players."

Clijsters, 27, was too young to appreciate fully her father's achievements at the time, but hopes that her brother-in-law, Jelle van Damme, a current Belgian international who has just joined Wolverhampton Wanderers from Anderlecht, might play in a future World Cup.

"I'm definitely going to try and come over and watch him play in England," she said. "I've always been an English football fan, so this is a bonus. I actually have a reason to come over and watch some English football."

She added: "At home I always played football in the backyard, with my Dad or even with my sister. And, in the tennis school where we were, we played a lot of football. I've always been part of a football tradition."

As for Wimbledon, where she will be playing for the first time since coming out of retirement last summer, Clijsters says "there is always a different atmosphere with the World Cup on".

There are plenty of other reasons why this year's tournament will feel very different for the former world No 1, who has looked in good form at this week's Aegon International in Eastbourne despite a recent injury lay-off.

It will be the first Wimbledon she has attended as a wife and mother and the first without her father, who always used to accompany her to England. Wimbledon also played a big part in her decision to come back last year, her appetite having been whetted by the invitation to play in the event to celebrate the opening of the Centre Court roof.

Both of Clijsters' Grand Slam victories came at the US Open, the second of them last year in only her third tournament back, when she became the first mother to win a major title for 29 years. She has also reached Australian and French Open finals, but has never gone beyond the last four at the All England Club.

"Wimbledon has always been the Grand Slam where I would have looked to do better," she said. "I was there with my Dad every year and we had a very intense relationship over those two weeks. We were both so proud to be there, so excited. Emotionally it will be a little bit harder not to have him there."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine