August 29, 2012

Goodbye, Kim

Earlier this evening the tennis world said goodbye to another great champion for a second time.

Kim Clijsters, playing her final professional event at the U.S. Open, having won the tournament her last three trips to New York, lost in her second round to British teenager Laura Robson. The match displayed everything we've come to expect from the Belgian -- her fight, her talent, her compassion for fellow players, her respect and love for the game. And it ended a career that spanned, in no particular order, fifteen years, forty-one titles, one retirement, four Grand Slams, eight Major finals, multiple injuries, a husband, a daughter, twenty weeks at #1, twenty-two straight wins at the Open, nearly two-hundred thousand followers, and just a couple people sad to see her go.

The outpouring of sentiment only begins to do Kim's career justice. She did more than her part to shape women's tennis at the turn of the century, grinding out powerful groundstrokes, placing un-gettable winners, and running down just about every ball with the help of her signature splits. She challenged and often won against the sport's best, pulling together a 7-6 record against Venus Williams, dominating Serena in that infamous New York semi, and turning the tables on countrywoman and long-time rival Justine Henin in both of their second careers. And in the process she moulded the careers of the players who could one day take her place at the top of the game, players like Robson, who after the biggest win of her career said:

"I want to thank Kim for being such a great role model to me for so many years...She's always been someone that I've looked up to since I started on the tour. She's always been incredibly nice to be around. I think we're all going to miss her."

To say Clijsters left a legacy in the sport is an understatement. She's been an inspiration to both those she faced and those still to come. And while she will have to cede the trophy she's held since 2005, it will be a long time before the courts in New York forget her name. And her reign as a true champion will last forever.

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