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August 29, 2012

Kim Clijsters


L. ROBSON/K. Clijsters
7‑6, 7‑6

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.
KIM CLIJSTERS:  Last time.  (Clapping.)

Q.  You look happy about that.

Q.  Are we that bad?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  No.  It's okay.

Q.  What are your emotions, Kim?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  Now?  I think the first hour after the match there was still disappointment and a little bit of frustration, I think.  You know, still kind of had that routine of going through the match and trying to figure out how to do it better next time.
But obviously now, I mean, after talking and kind of thinking about, you know, the retirement in singles, I'm happy.  You know, I'm happy that in the last year and a half or even two years, it's been kind of up and down, and I'm happy that I stuck through it and I was able to kind of live a lot of these emotions that I've had in these 18 months or so.
Kind of in a way proud of myself that I was able to do that.  So, yeah, I feel happy.  I have doubles tomorrow, so I got to stay focused.  (Smiling.)

Q.  Li Na said before the result of your match was known, in anticipation of playing you, she said it's going to be weird because there's mixed emotions because she so does not want to see you leave.  She cited all these wonderful qualities about you and your game.  Robson also just said she didn't think about playing you in your last match, but she went on and paid so many tributes to you.  You hear that from players on the women's tour.  What does it mean now that your career is over that you leave a legacy like that?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  I mean, it does something to you when you hear other players talk about me like that.  Obviously in these two rounds that I've played here, I've played players that I spoke to and they said that I inspired them.  That's a great feeling, because I was once in that situation as well.
You think about those kind of things now.  Now that I'm almost completely finished, you think about when I first stepped on tour, you know and met Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.  First in Belgium when I was able to practice in a tennis center against Sabine Appelmans and Dominique Monami.
It's been an incredible journey, and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis.  As a little girl, I got tennis racquets under the tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and I would want to wear them to bed I was so excited.
So for me to have been able to have been a part of women's tennis, and on top of women's tennis for so many years, now that I think back‑‑ you know, you don't think about it when you're in it.  You're kind of on automatic pilot.  You don't think about those things anyway.
Now that I think about it, it's been a crazy rollercoaster at times, as well.  All of a sudden when you're 15, you kind of get thrown in the spotlight, you go through puberty in the spotlight, you have your first boyfriend in the spotlight, you know, everything.
It's not just the tennis side of things that you think about now, it's about life.  We've had a lot of things happen in these last 15 years that I've been on tour.  I'm able to look back at them, and I'm very happy with the progress that I've made.

Q.  What emotions or sensations on the court will you miss most?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  I don't know.  You know, even moments like today where I'm able to save those match points, those are definitely moments that are fun to have, fighting for it when you're not maybe playing your best, but still finding a way to battle through it and, yeah, playing hard.
I think at the end of the day that's something that I don't know if I'll miss it.  Those are definitely the moments that I enjoyed the most, where you're playing matches with your back against the wall and still find a way to come back and play well.

Q.  When you think about life after tennis, what's going to happen from now?  What are the things that you're looking forward to most about retirement?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  Just kind of being home, I guess, being home and kind of having that routine for my family, you know, for our daughter.  I'm sure in two months I'm going to be like, Ah...
But I told my husband, Look, I've been traveling since I'm 11 years old.  Every so often I need to go stay in a hotel where I can just go and line up for breakfast and don't have to set up and clean the table, make up the beds every day, all that.
I enjoy that.  I enjoy it a lot when I come back from a long trip.  I want to do it.  But after a while, you're like...
Even when I played, everybody who's worked with me knows that I need a lot of variety.  Sam, my fitness trainer, never has one week been the same.  That's something that I will always look for challenges.  Even in life without tennis, without tennis at a high level, I'll always be involved in tennis.  I'll always try to give back to others what tennis has given me.
So I look forward to kind of that next chapter, as well, where I can help younger kids and girls who would like to be in our shoes and live this kind of lifestyle.

Q.  Do you feel this is maybe a little bit easier because you've done this retirement thing before?  Can you talk a little bit about career one, career two.
KIM CLIJSTERS:  It is easier because, like I said, I've had moments like a year and a half ago where I already was in this situation where I don't know if I want to keep going.
So I'm happy that I did.  But comparing, career one was obviously a lot longer than career two.  Hard to compare.  You know, you start when you're 15 and I think up to 24, so 10 years my first career was.  It was an intense ride.  Emotionally hard at times, as well, dealing with some of the big losses.
Also having my first Grand Slam win here at the Open in '05 was a dream come true.  Maybe then I felt like I had achieved everything in tennis that I've wanted to achieve.  I was No.1, I won a slam, so I felt when I retired the first time it was out of‑‑ yeah, it was a long career.
I don't do anything at 50%.  Every practice that I've done, every workout, I've always mentally been 100% in it.  I think at the end of my first career it was physically and mentally hard to just grind through it again.  And then, you know, was off for two years; didn't think about tennis at all.  Didn't ever think that I would come back.  So I don't know what happened.
But, yeah, started practicing for the Wimbledon event with the opening of the new Centre Court, with the roof, and gradually just started to feel ‑‑ you know, tennis was kind of a let‑out, as well.  It helped me kind of get rid of emotions and let me have a focus, yeah, on something‑‑ like I was able to just let a lot of energy out.
After my dad passed away as well it was the perfect release for me to deal where a lot of things, and at the same time to think on court about life and about what happens, and once in a while just smack the ball as hard as you can to get a lot of the frustration out.
But it's been good.

Q.  When you were playing, were you reading press?  Did you realize that the press was most of the time very positive about you, which doesn't happen with most players?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  I don't know.

Q.  Thinking about that, would you like to become a journalist?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  No, not at all.  (Smiling.)  Sorry.
No, I definitely read the press in my first few years that I was on tour, and then I completely ignored the press.  Also because positive, negative, I didn't want it to get to me.  It did when I was younger whether there was negative press, positive press.

Q.  You had more positive than anybody else.
KIM CLIJSTERS:  Oh, I don't know.
I've always been a sensitive person.  I always took things very personally, so after a while I completely not just ignored, but I had a habit the not even reading.
I followed results on tour and I watched the news, but whenever I saw my face somewhere I either skipped through the page or kind of changed the channel quickly.

Q.  So you don't want to be a TV commentator?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  No, no.  It's too easy to comment on players on court.  You know what I mean?  No.

Q.  When did you get comfortable with New York?  When did you first think that you could win this tournament?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  Well, I think I got comfortable with the surface in New York.  I always felt good playing in the States, whether it was the West Coast, all the tournaments leading up to the US Open, or here in New York.  I've always felt like when I stepped on a hard court I was the player that I wanted to be.
Movement‑wise here in New York, the atmosphere, I was able to take a lot of the energy with me, you know, in my tennis.  If people asked me which Grand Slam do you think you'll ever win first, for me it was the US Open because I always felt like it just clicked for me whenever I played here.
Obviously, winning in 2005, the two more wins after that, the victory before always inspired me when I came back.  It's hard to describe.  It's hard to know why in some places you just feel really good.
It's not like I am like, Okay, I'm moving to New York because I love being in the city.  I enjoy it for a week or ten days, and then I just lock myself into the room because it becomes too crazy, too loud, too hectic.
But I enjoy, you know, being in this environment, being here on‑site.  Playing on center court has been an incredible experience still, even now after so many years.  When I step out there in my first round, the night match, it was still very special.
I'm happy that, although I've been there a few times, that the specialness of that situation has never gone away.  So that's nice to have those emotions.

Q.  Does your daughter understand what's going on now?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  I haven't seen her yet actually.  But, you know, I've been telling her even this week a couple times where she was like, Why don't you come with us to go out, to go for a walk?  I'm like, Mama is almost done.  When I'm done with this tournament, I'll be there and I'll do all those fun things with you ‑ or try at least.
So, yeah, I think she's going to be excited to kind of have her mom around more, on a more regular kind of basis.

Q.  A career in a way is a collection of moments.  If you had to point to the really special moments ‑ impossible question ‑ but in your long career, would it be the slam victories or can you point to any others?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  I think my first Championships that I won were very special.  Every victory has a special meaning because there's like a personal story behind each one of them.  So it's hard to pick one.
First, becoming No.1, although I hadn't won a Grand Slam, but it was still something that is so surreal.  As a youngster, I looked at No.1's and I admired them so much.  For me being in that situation, it was incredible.
Winning my first Grand Slam.  Of course every victory has a special meaning, and it's very hard to say this one meant more than the other one, because, you know, I think now that I'm a little bit older I'm able to kind of understand what those emotions mean.
When I was younger it's like the adrenaline rush and it goes by so fast, and you don't really have time to think about it.

Q.  You're always so sunny.  I think people may underestimate how great a competitor you've been.  How important and how painful was losing to you and how important was winning?  Was it tough to handle losing?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  It was.  I hate to lose.  My husband and I, we play ping‑pong in our garage and I don't even want to give him a point.  I hate to lose, but I'm very aware or I understand and appreciate when you have an opponent who's playing really well and plays good tennis.
I always try to be better than my opponent.  I always try to find a solution to try and win a match, but I was also aware or understood that, you know, players can be better than you on the day.
Losses have always motivated me more to go back.  I have a little gym in my basement downstairs.  Even when I was supposed to take a few days off, I would go into the gym and just run and do intervals and workouts to try and be better next time after a loss.
I think probably most of the time I've done those moments by myself.  But then obviously in the last few years with my team, and especially with Sam.

Q.  What was the most painful one and why, the loss?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  The most frustrating ones were the Grand Slam finals where I wasn't able to ‑‑ against Justine where I didn't play my best tennis.
The funnest Grand Slam final that I played was the one against Li Na because we both played at a high level; we were really into it.  It was physical.  It was a very well‑played match.
I think the frustrating thing was that, Okay, maybe at the French Open, even up to the finals, I never really played my best tennis.  But you always want to, for myself, but also obviously for the crowd you want to play your best tennis on the special occasions.
That's probably been the times that I've been most frustrated after a loss.  Not so much that I lost, but the fact that I didn't play my best tennis was probably where I felt like I let myself down the most.

Q.  What are your thoughts on Laura Robson the player and also what she said on court after the match?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  I mean, I knew before I stepped out on court that I would have to play well.  I've practiced with her in Wimbledon.  We had a really good practice, and I said to my team as well she hits the ball so clean.  I think today as well she moved really well and she anticipated really well.
I think obviously physically if she gets better, even more explosive, then I think she's going to be a great player, and someone that I'll be watching, keeping an eye on.
As a person, she's always been a girl that's always been really nice and friendly in the locker room.  I obviously don't know her that well to say, but the words that she said on court afterwards were very nice.  I got a little bit emotional there.  It was very nice to hear those things from another player.

Q.  What were those emotions?  What were you feeling?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  Thankful, I think, first of all, for the things she was saying about me.  Kind of saying that she's obviously watched, when she was younger, a big part of my career.
Then, again, you start thinking kind of about, you know, these last 15 years or so.

Q.  Do you think you may have lost this match already yesterday in a way because the pressure of this is your last tournament?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  No, not at all.  Not at all.  I can honestly say that I didn't approach this tournament any differently than the last nine years that I've been coming here.  I'm staying in the same hotel.  I have my same routines.
It's not like, Oh, let's go out and enjoy the New York nightlife.  No, I'm serious.  I was as focused, if not even more, than ever.
I knew when I stepped out on court that I was going to have to play good tennis to try to beat her.  I knew that.  But I didn't feel any more pressure because of this being my last tournament.
Maybe the opposite, because it feels easier to one last time try your hardest and do that last workout, so...
It doesn't make it harder, it actually makes it easier for me.

Q.  Studying your legacy from a very specific aspect, what is your reaction when your name will be mentioned as the greatest Grand Slam winner as a mother with Margaret Court?  Do you think another player can come back as completely as you did?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  When I hear it, it is special, and I feel proud that I was able to win a slam as a mother, just because I know how much work it took after I had Jada to get back physically, tennis‑wise, and mentally to get back into the sport.
On the other hand, I never thought about that when I was playing.  You know, there were moments that it was hard.  Especially when I first started coming on tour it was hard to find the balance between figuring out‑‑ when I was home, I was still working out, practicing hard, but I was 100% mom.
If Jada was sick, I would call up and say, I need to be home now.  During a tournament, I can't call the tournament director and say, Hey, can you move my match because I need to be home for Jada or something.
Again, you know, you have a team that you work with.  Nicole, our nanny, has been maybe the most important member of our team because she's given me so much comfort knowing that my daughter was with somebody I trust.
When I want Brian to watch me play, Jada is with her.  Whether they're in the hotel or sitting somewhere in the stadium, it's so comforting knowing that she's okay.  Knowing that, that's when I'm able to play tennis and go to practice.  It got a little bit easier for me to leave home when she started going to school because I didn't have to feel that guilty of leaving her behind when I had to go to practice.
It's been tough at times, too.  As a mother, you feel guilty if something happens that you can't be there, good things or bad things.  Unfortunately, those kind of things have been there.
On the other hand, I know with our lifestyle I'm maybe more with her than parents who work hard and who work from 9:00 to 5:00.
But, yeah, I think as a parent you always feel like you miss out on things or feel a little bit guilty and you want to do better and be the perfect parent.

Q.  You mentioned the competitive ping‑pong games with Brian.  How important is it to have someone as a partner who understands your competitive nature?  How important was that for your comeback?
KIM CLIJSTERS:  Really important.  You know, I was very happy when I retired to be behind him and help him out, whether it was cooking pregame meals for his basketball games and having his basketball teammates over and trying to, yeah, just help out and make him feel comfortable.  I loved that.
In a way, I really look forward to doing that again.  You know, I've always worked with a team, but I hate being in the spotlight and in that it's all around me.  I've always said to my team members I don't want them to feel like they have to drop everything in life for me, because I wouldn't feel happy or comfortable with that.
I want everybody in my team to grow and get something out of this, as well.  It's the same with Brian.  I wouldn't have been able to do this if he would have said, No, I want to keep playing basketball and I want our daughter to stay home and you to stay home.
You know, he's very easygoing, but he's a very smart guy.  I've learned a lot from him in these last few years.  We were married five years this summer.  You know, he's obviously been the person who's been with me through the tough times that we dealt with, but also through the great times.
I think you learn so much from each other when things are tough.  And like I said, he's always been there.  He's always tried to help out.  It hasn't always been easy for him.  He's in a different country.  We live in Belgium.  He's finding his way.  He feels happy there.  I'm very appreciative of that and that he's willing to do that for me.

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