Kim Clijsters defeat likely to be last at Australian Open


With a quick wave and a smile, Kim Clijsters walked out of Rod Laver Arena for probably the last time in her professional career today, leaving behind a crowd that has come to view her as their own.

Clijsters, who plans to retire at the end of the season, was adopted by Australian fans when she began dating Lleyton Hewitt in 2000 and the affection didn't wear off after the couple split in 2004.

Playing on the Australia Day national holiday, Clijsters' every winner was raucously cheered against Victoria Azarenka, but the Belarusian maintained her composure to win a seesaw semifinal 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

One of the biggest cheers came when Clijsters walked off court and disappeared from view. The Belgian, though, has never been the sentimental type.

"I mean, you don't think about it," she said of her emotions when leaving Rod Laver Arena. "The loss is too fresh I think to think about something else. So I'm sure that will sink in in the next couple of days."

By that time, she will back at her home in Belgium, where she lives with American husband Brian Lynch, a retired basketball player, and their 3-year-old daughter Jada.

Lynch sat nervously courtside on Thursday to watch an absorbing semifinal, one of the best women's matches of the tournament so far.

"I'm sure I lost a few days of my life in that box but it was all worth it. Wifey is a true champ!" he tweeted afterward.

Spending more time with her husband and daughter is one of Clijsters' priorities after she ends her career, but she says she isn't in a hurry to leave tennis behind.

"I enjoy being at home. But I still enjoy playing tennis very much. I enjoy the challenge," she said. "I'm lucky enough that I'm capable of being in this position where Jada and my husband, they're capable of traveling with me, because otherwise it would be too hard to do that.

"Tennis has given me so many great memories and emotional rollercoasters. I don't think you can experience that again in any other thing in life, maybe except giving birth."

Clijsters has already retired once — in 2007 — but was tempted back in 2009 and has since won three Grand Slam titles.

She won the Australian Open a year ago but the remainder of the season was marred by shoulder, wrist and abdominal injuries. A twisted ankle almost curtailed the defense of her title here.

Playing Li Na in the fourth round, she stumbled and turned her left ankle midway through the first set and needed immediate treatment. As her opponent struggled with nerves, a hobbling Clijsters somehow came from four match points down to win in three sets.

She had considered quitting, but didn't want to retire from her last match at the Australian Open. It was that sort of fighting spirit that endeared her to the sport-loving Australian public and it was in evidence again against the 22-year-old Azarenka.

Scampering from side to side, retrieving balls that most players would not have got close to let alone returned, Clijsters didn't seem at all bothered by her ankle. Several times, she almost did the splits as she stretched out wide to force her opponent to play one more ball.

Trailing 4-2 in the deciding set, Clijsters recovered from 40-0 down on her opponent's serve, saved another three game points and broke back — to elicit what must have been one of the loudest cheers of the fortnight.

"She made me run so much, I felt like I was running like a marathon out there," Azarenka said.

It wasn't enough. Azarenka broke straight back and served out the win to reach her first Grand Slam final.

"It's unfortunate when you get so close," Clijsters said. "I know I'm capable of beating all these girls, but it's whoever's better on the day wins and gets to go through.

"But I could have been home already two days ago. I feel that I really gave it 200 percent, so in that way I really don't feel like I could have done anything differently these last two weeks."

Clijsters didn't reflect on her loss for long before looking ahead to her next target: the French Open, where she was the beaten finalist in 2001 and 2003.

"It is a challenge," she said. "It's one of the goals that I have this season, to give myself a really good preparation on the clay courts and try to be close to my best level when I get to the French Open."


newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn