Kim Clijsters approaches final bow with plenty of scars

 

Her sunny disposition and warm smile have lit up the world's greatest tennis arenas for more than a decade, but today Kim Clijsters could play her last match at Wimbledon.

The 29-year-old Belgian will retire after this year's US Open and, unlike the last time she put away her racket, there will be no turning back.

Five years ago Clijsters left the game in order to start a family, but she was back on the court two years later. She won three of the next five Grand Slam tournaments in which she played – two US Opens and the Australian Open – but in recent times the physical stresses of the modern game have taken their toll.

Since reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, Clijsters has played in only two tournaments. In the second of them, in the Netherlands last week, she was forced to withdraw before her semi-final because of an abdominal injury.

It remains to be seen how fit she will be when she faces Jelena Jankovic, the world No 21, on Court One this afternoon.

"I have no regrets, I know I always gave myself 100 per cent," Clijsters said yesterday. "I'm too old to play the game that I want to play physically. I've put my body through enough strain and everything.

"The whole lifestyle, that's what I'm dealing with now, the lifestyle I've had for the last 15, 20 years. It's been great. I wouldn't change it for a thing. I'm not going to be the type of player that's going to change the way I play or the way that I move."

Having played so few matches recently, Clijsters has dropped to No 47 in the world rankings, meaning she is unseeded at Wimbledon for the first time for 12 years.

"It will be tough," Clijsters said as she looked forward to facing Jankovic, who herself is a fellow former world No 1 player.

"We've had some tough battles in the past. I look forward to it. Not being seeded, obviously it's possible that you draw a high seed, so you have to be ready to go from the first match onwards."

Clijsters made her Wimbledon debut 13 years ago, when she lost to Steffi Graf in the fourth round, having earlier fought her way through the qualifying tournament.

She has twice reached the semi-finals. She lost to Serena Williams in 2003, having won the first set, and to her fellow Belgian Justine Henin three years later.

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