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Kim Clijsters has won at Flushing Meadows three times, including in 2009 when she celebrated with her daughter Jada.
Kim Clijsters has won at Flushing Meadows three times, including in 2009 when she celebrated with her daughter Jada.

US Open is the perfect place for Kim Clijsters to say goodbye

New York is a fitting venue for Kim Clijsters to say her final farewell to tennis.

Kim Clijsters, who is to end her career at the US Open, was recently asked about her best moments in New York. "It's very hard to pick," she said, rather understandably.

How could she pick between her Flushing Meadows triumphs of 2005 and 2009? The first was her maiden grand slam win, coming after four agonising defeats in major finals - two of them at the French Open (2001 and 2003) and one each at the Australian Open (2004) and the US Open (2003).

Having defeated Venus Williams in the quarter-finals and Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, the Belgian conquered Mary Pierce in straight sets to end her seven-year wait for grand slam glory.

Overjoyed and with tears streaming down her cheeks, Clijsters climbed up into the stands to meet her fans and family.

Would that be her best memory of New York? What about 2009 then? Talking about retirement from the sport since the age of 23, Clijsters announced her decision to quit in May, 2007, got married and had a baby.

But she was back just over two years later to win her second grand slam, in only her third comeback tournament, becoming the first mother since Evonne Goolagong Cawley (1980) to win a major.

Her daughter, Jada, 18 months old then, adoringly pointed at herself on the Arthur Ashe Stadium's giant screen as the mother received her trophy.

Clijsters returned in 2010 to defend her crown, but the Belgian's lover affair with the US goes beyond Flushing Meadows. She is married to an American basketball player, Brian Lynch, and has a second home in New Jersey. Career-wise, 17 of her 41 singles titles have come in North America, and she is undefeated at the US Open since losing the 2003 final to Justine Henin.

"You know, this place is magical for me," Clijsters said. "I have had so many beautiful memories."

Not surprisingly, the 29 year old has picked the US Open, which began yesterday, to be her tennis swansong. She started her campaign with a straight sets victory over 16-year-old Victoria Duval last night, and Clijster's fans will be hoping she can stretch her 21-match winning streak at the US Open all the way to the final.

But with Li Na being a possible third round opponent and the defending champion Samantha Stosur and the world No 1 Victoria Azarenka waiting in the following rounds, her fans might not get their wish.

Clijsters will, however, leave the stage without any regrets and relieved she will not have to choose between tennis and family any more.

"I think for me the most important thing is I've always followed my heart," she said. "I've always done what I felt was right. I've always stayed true to who I am."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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