Clijsters vs. Azarenka: Loss Likely Ends Clijsters' Career at Aussie Open

Eric BallFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26:  Kim Clijsters of Belgium talks to the media at a press conference after her semifinal lose against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus during day eleven of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

Storybook endings rarely happen in sports, and Kim Clijsters found out as much this week at the Australian Open.

Ever since she began dating Aussie Lleyton Hewitt back in 2000, the Australian crowd has taken the Belgian native in as one of their own. After her loss in the semifinals at Melbourne Park to Victoria Azarenka, the crowd gave her a roaring ovation.

They knew it may be the last time she ever steps foot on Rod Laver Arena.

Clijsters already retired from the women’s tour once in 2007, yet was drawn back in two years later. That decision proved to be a smart one as she has won three Grand Slam’s since, including the 2011 Australian Open.

So why would she decided to hang up the rocket now?

A twisted ankle in the fourth round against Li Na almost forced her to retire from the match, and it’s an injury that has popped up time and time again in her recent comeback. She considered quitting after her narrow victory, but her competitive nature wouldn’t have it.

She made a match of it before succumbing 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. After the match, her comments sounded like a woman who knows the end of the line is near:

I could have been home already two days ago. I feel that I really gave it 200 percent, so in that way I really don’t feel like I could have done anything differently these last two weeks.

With four Grand Slams already under her belt, there really isn’t much more for Clijsters to accomplish. She isn’t going to be vaulted up to the level of Steffi Graf or Serena Williams with another Grand Slam major win.

She has carved out a nice spot in the hierarchy of tennis and can retire knowing she made her mark on the sport.

With a husband and young child in the picture, tennis isn’t priority No. 1 anymore. With a recent history of various injuries, she knows father time’s win percentage is 100 percent. Sure, that may sound odd considering she’s only 28, but tennis is a young person’s game.  

In what looks to be the final go-around for Clijsters tennis career, it’s off to a good start at Melbourne Park.