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Clijsters blown away by Kerber

Kim Clijsters on serve against Angelique Kerber.
by Alexandra Willis
Monday 2 July 2012

It was sadly not the farewell to Wimbledon that Kim Clijsters envisioned.

The former champion, playing her last Championships at SW19, was bundled out of the fourth round in a most disrespectful fashion by Angelique Kerber, 6-1, 6-1 on No.3 Court.

The former world No.1, who has won three Grand Slam singles titles since returning to the tour after giving birth to her daughter Jada, has said many a time that Wimbledon was one of the tournaments that meant the most to her.

“It obviously all started I think from when I was a youngster, being at home even before I was a junior watching Wimbledon during summer holidays from Belgium, watching it on TV.  You just kind of felt the magic coming through the television, I think.  So that was kind of my first connection with Wimbledon,” Clijsters said.

“And then as I got older, when I was able to be here for the first time as a junior, it was just very special.  I mean, I think the first year that I played here, I was here just to take it all in.  I don't even think I was here to play tennis.  I needed to just open my eyes and look at everything. It's so new.  It was such, you know, an amazing thing.  It was like to me this was like Disneyland to another child.  So it was such a beautiful thing.

“I think the next year or the year after I was able to make the finals here in juniors, and that was a very special moment.  I was able to go to the Championship ball.  Won doubles here.

“So I have a lot of good memories, a lot of special memories also emotionally with my family and my with my dad.  Yeah, it's a nice place to go back to every year."

But the bubbly Belgian, for whom Wimbledon was also her father’s favourite, had never reached a final here at SW19, falling twice in the semi-finals, in 2003 and 2006.

Battling with an elbow injury on her return in 2010, and forced to miss the 2011 tournament with a foot injury, Clijsters may well have thought that there was something in the Wimbledon water that simply disagreed with her.

But 2012 had proved promising for the Belgian at Wimbledon. Skipping the French Open to make the best of her final year at SW19, Clijsters motored into the second week in the background of all the kerfuffle surrounding the Nadal, Federer and Murray late-night marathons.

Her opponent in the fourth round, however, may have lost in the first round here at The Championships last year, to Laura Robson, no less, but has some Grand Slam pedigree of her own, having reached the semi-finals at the US Open last year.

If Kerber was at all intimidated at the prospect of facing a four-time Grand Slam champion, she left any nerves at home in Germany, scorching through the first set for the loss of just one game in 22 minutes.

The second set was not any better for Clijsters, Kerber romping to a 5-0 lead before the Belgian finally got on the board. It was merely delaying the inevitable though, the German triumphing with just two games to Clijsters’ name.

“The way that she played today, you know, obviously this is the first time I ever played against her, but she played incredible.  I think she played close to the perfect match,” Clijsters said about Kerber.

“She was on every level just too good:  served better, returned better, and just in the rallies was hitting the ball very deep, very fast on to the bounce, anticipating really good as well.

“It was too good.  So I look forward to just watching her here obviously the rest of this tournament and just seeing her in the future, how she does against different players.”

But although she will not travel back to Belgium with a replica of the Venus Rosewater Dish to add to her trophy shelf, Clijsters insists she has no regrets about her history at Wimbledon.

“I won't be sorry about anything,” Clijsters said.  “I mean, I know that every time that I've played here I've given my best, and that's the only thing that I can try.  You know, some days it's good, some days it's great, and some days it's not good enough.

“And that's something that I'll never regret.  I'll never say that I didn't work hard enough or I didn't practice hard enough.  So I don't think I'll feel sorry about anything when I leave.”

She has a litany of memories to draw on too, including the time her father sat in the same seat for every match, come rain, wind or shine, and competing against Steffi Graf in her last Championships.

“Playing Steffi here was for me definitely one of my dreams come true as a young up‑and‑coming player.  To be playing Steffi in her last Wimbledon was very, very special,” Clijsters said.

It will not quite be the last match that the hugely popular Belgian plays at Wimbledon, for she will be back for the Olympics later this month, a source of some solace, perhaps. But at The Championships 2013, she will be sorely missed.

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