A Player's Diary: Kim Clijsters

Stung by a bee, then floating like a butterfly
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The Independent Online

Sunday 29 June

It's my first day off for well over a week, because I had come to Wimbledon straight from the Rosmalen tournament, which I won the week before The Championships. It's so nice to have a bit of a breather, not only so that I can rest the body, but also so that the mind can switch away from tennis. I have a bit of a lie-in and then, in the afternoon, I go off to be with my boyfriend [Lleyton Hewitt] while he plays a round of golf.


I have to practise indoors this morning because the weather prevents me from hitting on the grass. Things clear up and I play my fourth-round match against my doubles partner and great friend Ai Sugiyama. It's so weird being on the other side of the net from her, but I settle down quickly and race into a first-set lead. If you can get a rhythm, it helps your confidence and then you're away. I win the match 6-3 6-2 but am soon back out, this time alongside Ai. We beat Lisa Granville and Alexandra Stevenson 7-5 6-2 in our third-round match. By the end of the day, I am completely exhausted and flop out.


This is when it gets serious. A lot is made of the supposed lack of depth in the women's game, but quarter-finals are almost always tight matches. Mine is no exception, as Silvia Farina Elia causes me lots of problems in the opening set. With her slices and stuff, I just can't find my position on the court. And then, at 5-4, I get stung by a bee on my stomach. It is a bit of a shock, and I lose the next three games and the set. I do not feel right. The problem is that I don't know what to do about it. It's not like I have cream for bee stings with me on court. Anyway, by the middle of the second set, I am back to normal and take the last two sets 6-0 6-1.


I am so relieved to have a bit of a morning off. I need this more quiet day ahead of my semi-final against Venus Williams tomorrow. However, my hopes for a quick doubles match in the afternoon are then foiled by the rain, which interrupts my quarter-final against Martina Navratilova and her partner Svetlana Kuznetsova. The match will not be finished today. I come home to have a massage, eat a bowl of pasta and go to bed.


Well, what a bizarre semi-final. It has it all: rain, pain and then more pain. I make a really good start, but Venus comes back very strongly after the rain break. And then she starts doubling up in pain. Despite the fact that she goes one set down and seems to be in agony, she still manages to turn things around. It's an incredible match, with some exceptional rallies. Just to be part of that, even though it ends in a 6-4 3-6 1-6 defeat, is great. Am I suspicious about Venus' injury and her quick recovery? No, adrenalin can kick in in these situations. Afterwards, I face the possibility of having to finish my doubles quarter-final, but this time it is the darkness that forces the tie into a third day.


I am obviously sad to be out of the singles, but the long faces don't last because I still have the doubles to focus on, and also because Lleyton and I are quite philosophical about these sorts of things. Don't get me wrong, I hate losing and I'm disappointed after my defeats, but it never lasts for long. By the next day I've usually got it out of my system. This is no different, and I really enjoy playing some doubles. It's competitive yet also so relaxed. Ai and I finally finish off our quarter-final 4-6 6-2 6-4, and then take on Lindsay Davenport and Lisa Raymond in the semis. It's a really tough match, but we come through 6-1 0-6 6-4. We're in the final against Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez. It's a great feeling, and helps soften the blow of the singles defeat.


It's annoying sitting around having to watch other people competing in the women's final, but I console myself with the fact that at least I am not alone in a hotel here. It's so nice having Lleyton and his entourage around me while I'm still in the tournament. It's definitely a support for me to see him sitting there, and I'm sure he'll be very proud when I walk out on Centre Court tomorrow. It may not be the big prize either of us wanted, but I'll be trying very hard to bring one trophy back to our household.

In an interview with Alex Hayes