I was going to write that I was the happiest person in the household when Kim Clijsters won her second U.S. Open on Sunday night, but realized that my wife’s family is from Belgium.
It is the type of sports story that could never be written. One of the most-liked players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour returns after a two-year hiatus from starting a family, plays just two warm-up events (including Toronto) and smashes through the competition at the final Grand Slam of the year.
“This has been so exciting for me. It wasn’t really part of the plan. I just wanted to play these three tournaments and get used to all of the surroundings again,” Clijsters said during the on-court trophy presentation. “Caroline (Wozniacki) is such a great fighter. Women’s tennis should be proud to have such a great girl playing.”
Clijsters is right. I had the chance to work with the young Dane as part of the downtown street tennis event at Yonge/Dundas during Rogers Cup. Wozniacki was a doll. She is just what the Tour needs – a warm, media-friendly ambassador – who is also one of the best defensive players I’ve seen in years. It was kinda fitting that two of the nicest players in women’s tennis fought tirelessly to win the last major of 2009. My grandmother once told me that good things happen to good people.
I’m quite sure that tournament organizers around the world had a little smile on their faces Saturday night after defending U.S. Open champion Serena Williams experienced an emotional meltdown on centre court during her high-profile match against Clijsters. The incident will be talked about for months as Williams, who was beaten 6-4 in the opening set of the women’s semifinal against the Belgian, was serving to stay in the final Grand Slam of 2009 and was called for a foot-fault, bringing up match up for Clijsters. What’s more frustrating for me is not the way the match ended, or even the extreme display of unsportsmanlike conduct by a so-called living tennis legend. This poor show of judgment took away from the fact that former world No. 1 Clijsters achieved the unthinkable, and just 24 hours later, put an exclamation point on one of the greatest comeback stories in sport.
Let’s not forget in all of this hoopla that the Belgian played some phenomenal tennis. We’re talking world-class forehands and rabbit-like footwork. Her strength does not mean the competition is weak, this win speaks more about how great of a player Clijsters really is.
A year ago, administrators and fans were questioning the future of women’s tennis. Player dropouts, a lack of challengers, a rotating door at No. 1 and only the Williams sisters with notoriety in the Top 10. Turn the clocks ahead and most would agree that all of the hard work to made the game better, combined with the return of a champion and the emergence of some terrific talent, means a healthy Tour in 2010.
Fans deserve it, just as much as the ladies deserved their results this fortnight.