The mother of all comebacks: Kim Clijsters celebrates unlikely U.S. Open triumph with daughter Jada
By NICOLA BODEN
Last updated at 12:18 PM on 15th September 2009
Appearing in her first grand slam tournament since retiring more than two years ago, Kim Clijsters would probably have been quite happy to make it into the second week.
Instead, she stormed all the way through to the final and took the title – repeating her success at Flushing Meadows four years ago.
The delighted 26-year-old was able to celebrate with her young daughter, Jada – who was the very reason she gave up tennis in the first place.
The toddler, who at 18 months is the spitting image of her Belgian mother, lapped up the limelight at the Arthur Ashe stadium as her mother showed off her trophy.
‘We tried to plan her naptime a little bit later so she could be here today. It’s the greatest feeling in the world, being a mother,’ an over-whelmed Clijsters told the cheering crowds.
Family affair: Kim Clijsters with daughter Jada after winning the U.S. Open in New York
Delight: Clijsters kisses husband Brian Lynch in the stands and, right, celebrates with him and Jada
Clijsters is the first mother in 29 years to take a grand slam crown after Evonne Goolagon won Wimbledon in 1980. She is also the first ever wild card entrant to win the U.S. Open.
Her triumph against Caroline Wozniacki was all the more remarkable because she gave up tennis in 2007 to start a family with husband Brian Lynch, a basketball player.
The U.S. Open was only her third tournament since she announced her return to the courts in March this year. As Clijsters said herself this morning: ‘Winning was not really our plan’.
A hugely popular player, the Belgian was welcomed back onto the tour with open arms and swept aside both Venus and Serena Williams on her journey to the U.S. title.
Serena handed her a place in the final on Saturday night after arguing with a line judge who called a foot fault as she was 15-30 and serving to stay in the match.
I can’t look Mummy: Clijsters and her 18-month-old daughter lap up the limelight at the Arthur Ashe Stadium
Historic: Clijsters is the first mother to win a grand slam in almost 30 years
After a warning earlier in the game when she smashed her racket, Serena was given an automatic point penalty for a second violation and the match was over.
In truth, Clijsters had already been comfortable and took it 6-4, 7-5 but a message she posted on Twitter later revealed she was still struggling to absorb quite how far she had already come.
‘The fairy tale goes on – some how, I’m in the US Open final on Sunday beating both Venus and Serena along the way… am i dreaming???,’ she wrote.
Less than 24 hours later, when a final delayed by rain eventually took place, she duly overcame ninth seed Wozniacki of Denmark 7-5 6-3 to complete the fairy story.
Clijsters clinched the 93-minute match – and its $1.6m pay cheque – with a forehand winner and sank to her knees in celebration, visibly sobbing.
She immediately climbed up to her family’s box to give Brian – her husband of two years – a kiss and to hug her friends.
Isn’t Mummy clever? Jada was fascinated by the silver trophy, which comes with a $1.6m pay cheque
Playful: Jada, who is the spitting image of her mother, runs around the court at Flushing Meadows
‘I don’t have words for this,’ she said during the trophy presentation ceremony. ‘I’m just glad I got to come back and defend my title from 2005. It’s so exciting for me.’
Clijsters, who was unranked because of her time out from the game, was offered a wild card for the tournament earlier this year.
She had not competed in the event since her first grand slam triumph there in 2005 – missing out in 2006 because of injury and then because she had already retired.
‘I just wanted to start these three tournaments to get back into the rhythm of playing tennis and get used to the surroundings again. So I have to thank the USTA for giving me the wild card to come back here,’ she said.
It took a while for Clijsters to find the range with her groundstrokes against Wozniacki, who was appearing in her first grand slam championship match.
But by the end of the final at a windy Arthur Ashe Stadium, she was cracking winners from both sides and registered 36 in all compared to her opponent’s 10.
Wozniacki had been a break up in the first set at 5-4 but Clijsters closed it out by winning the last three games and then dominated in the second set to win.
Champion: Clijsters, husband Brian and daughter Jada posing for pictures in Times Square
The Dane was magnanimous in defeat, saying: ‘She’s such a great girl. Unfortunately she beat me today. She played a great match and deserved this trophy.’
Clijsters’ victory will spur on Roger Federer, who will be out to prove tonight that new fathers can also win grand slams.
Now the father of twins, the World Number One takes on an in-form Juan Martin del Potro in the men’s final and is aiming to win a record 16th grand slam title.
Of Clijsters’ win, he said: ‘Amazing. For her to have this incredible run is fantastic. This is a great story for women’s tennis, that’s for sure.’
The Belgian was previously engaged to Australian tennis star Lleyton Hewitt.
She is not now expected to make a full return to the tour but is likely to play in major competitions, including Wimbledon.
Hard-fought: Clijsters overcame ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki in two sets to clinch the grand slam title
Winner: Evonne Goolagong with her daughter Kelly in 1978, two years prior to her second Wimbledon triumph
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