Tuesday May 08, 2007



Popular Belgian closes book on nine-year career

ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA – One of the most popular players to have ever graced the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, Kim Clijsters, announced her retirement Sunday, effective immediately. Clijsters's last match was a 76 63 loss to Julia Vakulenko (UKR) in the opening round of the J & S Cup in Warsaw on May 3rd.

"I am extremely proud of what I have achieved in my career," said Clijsters. "If someone told me nine years ago I would have accomplished all that I did, I would have said you were joking. Tennis has been an amazing journey for me all over the world and I'm very happy to have met the people that I did. That's always been the most important to me, forget the trophies and material things, friends are truly the most important. I couldn't have done all that I did, without the support of my family and coaches who worked with me, and to them I'm truly grateful. I am also thankful to all the encouragement from the fans over the years and the media's support in following my career.

"I couldn't have asked for a better farewell than I did in Antwerp this year and trying to play after that was proving even more difficult, with the injuries that wouldn't go away and knowing life after tennis was drawing nearer, it became harder to push myself to compete.

"Tennis-wise, winning the US Open and season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships twice were obvious high points. The matches that I'll never forget were the 1999 US Open match with Serena (Williams) when I was 5-3 up in the third. I had suchgoose-bumps it was incredible. I remember playing Amélie (Mauresmo) in Filderstadt one year from match-point down to win but the tennis we both played that day was amazing.

"I hope people won't be too sad now that I've decided to stop playing tennis. A new chapter in my life is about to begin and I hope I'll see everyone somewhere down the line. Remember what ever you do, do it with a smile on your face", was her message to the fans.

"Kim Clijsters will be remembered as one of the most accomplished and loved players in the history of women's professional tennis," said Sony Ericsson WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott. "No player has been so unanimously popular with fans and fellow players alike. She has been a once-in-a-generation champion. Kim's contribution to popularizing the sport in her native Belgium, as well as globally, is well known. Athletic and determined on court, Kim has also been a wonderful ambassador for the sport off it and she will be much missed by her legions of fans, fellow players and everyone connected with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour."

Long-time compatriot and rival, world No.1 Justine Henin said, "I have a lot of respect for what she did in her career – as a player, as a person. We've almost grown up together and I think we've helped each other to come in another level because we pushed each other always to play better. I think it's been a good concurrence for us and she's been a great player and it's time for her now to turn the page and do something else in her life and everyone has to respect that. She did a lot for the game, for Belgian tennis for sure, and I think I will have great memories of her that I will keep. It's pretty emotional because we spent a lot of time together when we were younger and we grew up together on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. It's a very special day today."

Close friend and Wimbledon champion Amélie Mauresmo said, "I think she had been thinking about retiring for a while so I'm sure she is really convinced that it's the right decision for her. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and all the players are going to miss her a lot not only because of the player she was but the joy she brought everywhere. I wish her the very best in her new life. Personally I always enjoyed our rivalry because it brought the best out in both of us.

Current 2007 Sony Ericsson Championships Race leader Serena Williams reflected "I wish Kim the best in her life after tennis. She was a great player, a great competitor and an even better person. We had some great matches but I'll miss her more in the locker room than anything else".

Highlights and milestones that stand out in the Belgian's impressive career include:

* Nine seasons as a professional, winner of 34 career singles titles and 11 doubles titles and US$14.5 million in career prize money.

* First Belgian, man or woman to rank at No 1 in the world

* Made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon 1999 as a qualifier, having just turned 16, won six straight matches including a win over world No.10 Amanda Coetzer before falling to Steffi Graf

* In 2001, upset world No.1 Martina Hingis en route to the Indian Wells final, reached her first Grand Slam final in Paris before falling to Jennifer Capriati 16, 64, 1210 in the longest third set to a French Open women's final in history.

* Record breaking season in 2003, becoming the first female athlete to pass US$4 million in career earnings; on August 18, became only fifth player ever after Navratilova, Hingis, Sanchez and Davenport to rank at No.1 in singles and doubles simultaneously; reached 15 singles finals (most since Seles in 1991); won 90 singles matches (most since Navratilova in 1982) and the first woman to play over 100 singles matches since Evert in 1974; defended her season-ending Tour Championships crown (only the fifth woman ever to do so after Evert, Navratilova, Seles and Graf)

* Had one of the most impressive comebacks ever in 2005, having played only eight matches in the previous 12 months following left wrist surgery and with a ranking of No.133, won Indian Wells and Miami back to back to re-establish herself as one of the world's best players. Six months later won her first Grand Slam title and reached No.2 in the world.

* Only player to have defeated both Serena and Venus Williams while they held the world No.1 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking

* Renowned for her friendly demeanor, she received the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship award from her peers an unprecedented six out of seven years.

* Recipient of Belgian Sportswoman of the year five times, most recently 2005; ITF World Champion in 2005; LTWA Ambassador to the Sport Award – presented in London 2005, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Player of the Year award in 2005

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is the world’s largest premier professional sport for women with more than 1,300 players representing 75 nations competing for over $62 million in prize money at the Tour’s 62 events in 35 countries. More than 4.6 million people attended women’s tennis events in 2006 with millions more watching events on television networks around the world. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour season concludes with the Sony Ericsson Championships at the Madrid Arena in Madrid, Spain, November 6-11, 2007. Further information on the Tour can be found on the Internet at





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