Walk into the All England Club offices and the first picture you see hanging on the wall is from this year’s Centre Court Celebration where Kim Clijsters is standing at the net watching her doubles partner Tim Henman play a forehand volley against Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. In the 119 days since that photo was taken, Clijsters made a return to professional tennis and became the first mother to win a Grand Slam since Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon in 1980.
The Belgian beat five of the top 18 players in the world to become the first unseeded player to win the Open when she defeated No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday night. In less than a year, Clijsters has gone from not thinking about tennis to winning one of the sport’s greatest prizes.
“It was literally only until the start of this year where – it’s not that I thought like, I’ll never play tennis again. I just didn’t think about it. I just didn’t think it – you know, looked at it as an option for me,” she said in her post-final press conference. “I just, you know, yeah, because there were so many things going on with the wedding and I was pregnant and I was breastfeeding and everything. So you don’t get into the whole training routine or anything until at the start of this year when I got the invitation to Wimbledon again.
“I think that’s how, yeah, how it all started and how I got that competitiveness back, I think, to just not just want to go play exhibitions here and there and just to do this serious tournaments and just to see if I can, you know, just really challenge myself, I think, was the biggest thing.”
The Clijsters’ victory, and the Serena Williams explosion in their semi-final, has put women’s tennis on the backpage again and shown that the men’s game does not have a monopoly on drama and intriguing storylines. But what could Clijsters’ win mean in the long-term? Here are some thoughts:
- More speculation that the other retired Belgian, Justine Henin, could make a return to the sport. The former world No.1, who retired before the French Open and Wimbledon last year, would have noted her compatriot’s success and seems to be wavering on the question of a return.
- The WTA will pitch an advertising campaign at mothers based around Clijsters. Mothers are a golden demographic and Clijsters could be the golden selling point for the WTA.
- More players combining parenthood plus their careers. If Kim and Roger can do it, why can’t others?
What do you think Kim Clijster’s win will mean for tennis?