Top ten moments for ‘Tennis Mama’ Kim Clijsters.
Becoming the first mother to win a grand slam for 29 years. As Clijsters played her first-round match at the 2009 US Open, so ending a two-year absence from the grand slams, one of the American television networks ran a graphic on screen which listed her weaknesses in this order: Jada and a lack of match play. Within a fortnight, Clijsters was the champion in New York, after beating Caroline Wozniacki in the final. One-year-old Jada sat on a nanny’s knee or played in one of the private boxes in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, oblivious to what was happening on the blue cement court. “We had planned Jada’s nap time for later than usual so that she could be here tonight,” said Clijsters, who had been playing only the third tournament of her ‘second career’. Jada later came down on court to pose with her mother, her father Brian Lynch and the trophy, with the little girl tottering about in front of the photographers. Before Clijsters, you had to spool back to the 1980 Wimbledon Championships, when Australia’s Evonne Goolagong won the Venus Rosewater Dish, for the last time that a mother had been a grand slam champion.
Causing a prison riot. When Clijsters played Russia’s Vera Zvonareva at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, it caused a prison riot – the inmates at a young offenders institution in Kent in England threw rocks and took a hostage after guards refused to let them watch the match on television.
Embarrassing Todd Woodbridge during an on-court interview at the 2011 Australian Open. A smiling Clijsters said to the Australian: “Rennae Stubbs showed me a text message you sent her the other day about how you thought I was pregnant. You said: ‘She looks grumpy and her boobs are bigger’.” Woodbridge could only reply: “Thanks very much, there goes my TV career.”
Retaining her US Open title by winning the title again in 2010. Clijsters beat Zvonareva very easily, dropping just three games. It was the third time from her last three US Opens that she had won the title, following on from her tournament victories in 2005 and 2009.
Bonding with her future husband Brian Lynch over a shared love of bulldogs. “We started talking about bulldogs and it went from there,” Lynch has said. “She’s Super Mum and I’m, what do you call it, Mr Dad.”
Living up to the ‘Aussie Kim’ nickname by winning the 2011 Australian Open. “Winning in Melbourne meant so much to me, it was so emotional. For a long time, since the Lleyton days, people out here called me ‘Aussie Kim’. I took that as a big compliment, but I felt as though I only really deserved that name once I was the Australian champion.”
Having her father Leo staying with her in a rented house when she played at Wimbledon. Clijsters has said of her father, a former professional footballer who passed away in 2009: “We used to stay in a house together and it was always a lot of fun. He loved the whole history of the tournament and the sport. My dad was a traditional kind of guy. He appreciated the white clothing, and not letting everything go crazy, but keeping everything simple and traditional. It was so easy – we would stay in a house and walk to the courts. He loved that. He had some hay fever, and some bad allergies, so I remember that he was always sneezing.”
Being asked to take part in the exhibition match to celebrate the opening (and then closing) of the new retractable roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court. “They wanted me to play a special match to open the new Centre Court with Steffi Graf, who was my idol, Andre Agassi and Tim Henman. I was very happy.” If it had not been for that exhibition, in the spring of 2009, there is every chance Clijsters would never have un-retired. It was as she trained for her appearance at the All England Club that she realised that she still wanted to compete on the tour.
Her risky celebrations – climbing up a thin, 10-metre steel railing – after winning her first grand slam title with victory at the 2005 US Open. Clijsters, who had beaten Mary Pierce, was trying to reach her family in the second tier of seating. Here was the new US Open champion, all pink-faced and happy, using the Arthur Ashe Stadium as a climbing frame. The security guard chasing after her could not have caught her if she had fallen. Clijsters was halfway along the railing when she suddenly realised what a precarious position she was in, with nothing to protect her from falling down on to the concrete. The outstretched hands of the spectators prevented her from losing her footing. Clijsters arrived at the top of the bannister, burst into tears and gave an affectionate embrace to everyone in her box.
Becoming the first mother since Margaret Court in the 1970s to hold the world number one ranking.