Former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters finally made it official Tuesday, confirming what she's been strongly hinting at since the 2012 season started: She will retire from tennis after the U.S. Open.
Clijsters will be able to go out on her terms, ending a stellar career. If she can stay healthy, she will hit the summer's big events -- Wimbledon, then the Olympics (also at the All England Club) -- and say goodbye in New York.
She's missing the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris, because of a right hip injury. This season has been tough, as she badly rolled her ankle at the Australian Open and has been struggling to find her health and form since.
It's fitting that her farewell will be at the U.S. Open, a tournament she has memorably won three times. Only somebody with her sunny personality could be claimed by three continents: She's “Aussie Kim,” for her Australian Open success and past status as Lleyton Hewitt's fiancée; “American Kim” for her success in the U.S. Open and for marrying an American; and, always, “Belgian Kim,” for her home country.
"As it stands I will end my career at the U.S. Open. That is where I enjoyed my greatest triumphs and it is a very special place for me," Clijsters, now ranked 44th, said during a news conference.
Her reason for retiring at 28 is sound: She wants to build a stable and loving home life with her husband, Brian Lynch, and their 4-year-old daughter, Jada, and have more children. The first time she retired, in 2007, was because of injuries and wanting to start a family. Her desire to play led to a successful comeback in 2009, where she went from a wild card to winning the U.S. Open.
Clijsters' life is one most would love to have: She has a successful marriage and family and has stayed at the top of her game at work. She's never said it was easy, having home bases in New Jersey and Belgium, but she and her husband have made things work. Clijsters has been very clear about her priorities since Jada was born, with tennis a set-in-stone second to her family. Jada is now in school, making it tougher to move around as much.
Clijsters has been one of my favorite players to watch, from her athletic style to her grace and class. She'd never throw a racket or curse when something went wrong. She just kept going, hoping her tennis would turn things around.
And those splits to grab wide shots … wow, and ouch. I winced every time I saw her do it, but it was as natural as breathing for Clijsters. If I unwisely tried to do a split-shot like her, I'd miss the ball, then call for many drugs and a body cast to put my hips and back in place.
Let's enjoy the last summer of her career. I have a feeling she and her family will soak it all in.