Tuesday April 17th, 2012

Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters hasn't played since losing to Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 7-6 (5) at the Sony Ericsson Open. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Kim Clijsters' farewell season on the WTA Tour has been derailed by injuries, but she's sticking by her repeated claims that the main focus of her final season is the Olympics. The Belgian announced on Tuesday that she will skip the entire clay-court season, including the French Open, in order to properly heal her hip and prepare for the Olympics and grass season. Clijsters says she isn't recovering as quickly as she hoped from the hip injury she suffered at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami last month.

Clijsters has repeatedly said that the London Olympics were a big reason she wanted to come back and compete on tour. Just last month in Miami, she reiterated that they remain her priority.

"The Olympics is what I'm focused on now," Clijsters said at the Sony Ericsson Open. "This is the long‑term goal that I set when I started playing again. Of course, you know, we have the French Open, Wimbledon, that I'm focused on as well. But when it comes down to I think scheduling why ‑‑ you know, where I set my deadline when I started after the pregnancy were the Olympics, to try and make it to the Olympics and to be ready and in good shape and not just go there to be a part of the whole experience, you know."

With that in mind it's not a huge shock that Clijsters has chosen to skip Roland Garros, though it's still mildly surprising given it's her last year on tour. She's never had her best results on clay, confounding given her superior movement and transition game. It always seemed as though she had a mental block when it came to the red stuff. Despite making the finals of Roland Garros twice (2001, 2003), it's never been a tournament where you felt Clijsters was fully engaged. She's only competed there once since 2006, enduring a shock second round loss to Aranxta Rus in 2011.

Injuries surely play a part in her decision, but they play an even bigger role when your heart's not really in it. Currently ranked at No. 41 with only 100 points to defend in the clay season, skipping the clay shouldn't impact her chances of qualifying to play in London. So with her body breaking down repeatedly over recent years, maybe she's trying to save her herself for the quick hit at the Olympics. One tournament, played over seven days, with one of the biggest prizes in sports on the line. That's the reason she came back. Clijsters' website now lists the grass-court tournament in Rosmalen as her next tournament, which starts a mere one week before Wimbledon. But do we even know what to expect of (or for) Kim for the rest of the year? She's a devoted mother, one who isn't willing to disrupt her family's life just so she can train properly and travel the globe to compete on the tour. We laud those traits from a human perspective, but is it even remotely sustainable as a highly competitive athlete? As Serena Williams has learned, the days of being a part-time player are over. You actually have to put in the hard yards and compete on the tour in order to be match tough for the biggest tournaments on the calendar.

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