A disappointing end to the career of an extra-ordinary tennis player as heart-broken tennis fans across the world witnessed Kim Clijsters bowing out of the game for good losing to the 18 year old Laura Robson in what was, as she had already announced, her last outing as a professional tennis player.
The Belgian was simplyout-played by Robson, who played the match of her life to win the second round match 7-6(7-4), 7-6(7-5)in 126 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The world no. 89 played some outstanding tennis and it doesn’t get any easier from here on as she faces Chinese ninth seed Li Na in round three.
“It was such a good atmosphere,” said the Londoner. “I didn’t have any expectations because she’s so experienced.
“I’ve had so many tough matches against top players that I knew the level was there, I just had to keep it for the whole match.
“Kim has been such a great player for so many years and a role model for all the younger girls coming up.”
The loss on Wednesday ended Clijsters’ 22-match winning streak in New York, encompassing titles in 2005, 2009 and 2010, plus Monday’s first-round victory.
She walked away from the sport once before, in May 2007, then returned after a gap of two-plus years. Now 29, the Belgian insisted that there is not looking back from here, and decided the US Open — and its hard courts that she conquered on the way to three championships — would be her final tournament.
“It’s the place that has inspired me so much to do well and to do great things. It’s hard to explain sometimes why,” Clijsters said in an on-court interview, her face flushed and her eyes welling with tears.
“This completely feels like the perfect place to retire,” Clijsters told the spectators at Arthur Ashe Stadium, many of whom rose to shower her with a standing ovation. “I just wish it wasn’t today.”
Her previous defeat at Flushing Meadows came against Belgian rival Justine Henin on September 6, 2003, in the tournament final. Robson was 9 at the time.
Robson’s serve was broken in game four of the first set and Clijsters swiftly moved into a commanding position at 5-3.It was going well for the Belgian till Robson had a sudden surge of will-power and she went all out hitting two vicious forehands to break back.
She pinned Clijsters behind the baseline and hit forehand and backhand winners from all parts to force a tie-break.
Robson continued to pile the pressure on Clijsters, who put a return long to hand over the initiative.
There was a glimmer of hope for Clijsters going up a break in the second set. Robson seemed a tad nervous. But, the Brit didn’t let the set slip by and got right back in it; playing gutsy, her dare-devilry did pay off seeing that all the shots landed right where she aimed.
Robson went within two points of victory when Clijsters served at 4-5 and had two match points at 5-6, but Clijsters held her nerve. At 5-5 in the second tie-break, however, Robson struck a brilliant forehand winner down the line and third time was indeed lucky for her as she finished the job with another big serve. It was a fine way to complete a magnificent victory.
“I just wasn’t good enough at the end of the match,” Clijsters acknowledged.
And now? What does she look forward to the most?
The answer came quickly: “Being home.”