NEW YORK -- Three thoughts on Kim Clijsters losing the final match of her career this evening at the 2012 U.S. Open:
1. In this, her avowed final tournament, Kim Clijsters took the unusual step of entering three events: singles, double and mixed doubles. How did she spent the weekend prior to the last event of her career? Watching her doubles partner and friend, Kirsten Flipkens, attempt to qualify for the main draw, even mixing Flipkens's sports drink. This suggests two things: First, that Clijsters is remarkably loyal and endearing and grounded -- which, of course we already knew. And that at this last tournament of her Hall of Fame career, she was here less to win the trophy than to smell the roses. This was a farewell tour, not a chance realistic chance to go out on top.
2. Coming into this event, Clijsters had not lost in New York since 2003 -- ironically, to countrywoman and rival and frenemy, Justine Henin. While she had missed many of those years on account of injury and retirement, this was the tournament where she made her bones, winning the title three times. At this stage of her career, though, undone by age and injury, she simply lacks the familiar punch and movement to contend. She fired up a little something for the memory banks a few times today, scrambling to retrieve shots and then almost doing the splits before recovering; elevating and then pounding her forehand; serving an ace down match point. But, as she conceded, she is not the player she once was, neither healthy nor energetic enough to win week-in, week-out. She appears
thoroughly comfortable with her decision. For all the "unretirements" were have witnessed -- including Clijsters several years ago -- it strains imagination to see her rethinking this decision. Next stop, the Hall of Fame.
3. Let's stop and acknowledge Laura Robson, who came here fresh from winning a silver medal in mixed doubles at the London Games. First, the score of today¹s match was 7-6, 7-6. Especially given the context of the match and the opponent, a win like this bespeaks a great deal of poise, especially for a teenager. Though she uses her left-handed game to devastating effect, Robson did an awfully good Clijsters impersonation tonight, penetrating the court with power and moving with grace and agility. The running forehand she hit to set up match point ranks among the best shots I¹ve seen in this tournament. Finally, there was something almost poetic about Clijsters -- renowned for her decency, humility and likability -- losing her last singles to a player who had already distinguished herself here. Read the last item in my mailbag.
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