OK, promised, took some time due to circumstances...
BUT here is the first part: (next hopefully done tomorrow)
Source: De Morgen, Jan. 11, 2003
Australia, the promised land for Kim Clijsters
by Bart Fieremans, translation by Ingrid
Alas, there is no grand slam tournament for Kim Clijsters in Belgium.
Australia does have one, and the chance that she might win her first grand slam down under, is maybe the biggest. Clijsters is cheered there, thanks to boyfriend Lleyton Hewitt, as a special popular ‘adopted child’. Clijsters recently didn’t exclude that she might take permanent residence in Australia and would adopt the Australian nationality, father Lei Clijsters also makes play with the more advantageous tax system. In this respect Kim would have better started something with someone from Monaco. And that six of the top ten players have residence in Florida, isn’t only because of the sun.
Together with the love for Lleyton Hewitt, the love for his home country Australia has grown for Kim Clijsters. Travelling between Belgium and Australia is easier said than done, but all in all Kim Clijsters spends one quarter of the year in Australia. She always leaves at the end of the tennis season, mid November, direction of Adelaide, where Hewitt lives. The couple spent some holidays in Queensland, location of the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, took care of condition training and fitness in Adelaide, and spent the Christmas holidays with the Hewitt family. Even before the beginning of the new year both were already back to work in the Hopman Cup.
Both Hewitt and Clijsters are among the top favourites to win the Australian Open. Especially in men’s tennis, Australia is dying for a home winner once again, since the last home victory dates back from 1976, with Mark Edmondson. Because Rafter has retired, and Mark Philippoussis is always suffering some injury, only Hewitt carries the hope of the nation on his shoulders. Hewitt is an immense patriot and made himself already immortal in some historical matches in Davis Cup. His status as world number one also tells us that he now is the best player to set hope on. Nevertheless the relationship between Hewitt and his home country have become somewhat poisoned. He is still a little bit on terms of war with the Australian media, some questionable quotes –he said once in public that the Australian public was stupid- weren’t taken well.
There is no Australian favourite at the women’s, however an ideal stand-in is running around. Since Kim is with Hewitt she is getting attention in Australia. When it emerged that Kim was also an absolute topper, and on top of that –rather unusual in the tennis circus - behaves very warmly and simply, she swiftly gained the hearts down under.
Linda Pierce, since years the tennis authority at Australian newspaper The Age, admits that Australia is considering Kim a little bit as own blood. “Lleyton is a real Australian - that still counts a bit more – but we regard Kim here somehow like an adopted child. The crowd cheers for her, and the Australian media is closely monitoring all her doings. Kim is less suspicious than Lleyton when it comes to the media. She doesn't consider journalists to be enemies and gives the tennis sport a warm image."
... (follows analysis about Kim’s chances at the Au Open)
Also the family in Belgium isn’t surprised about Kim’s popularity in Australia. Father Lei Clijsters has never been to Australia so far - he can’t stand the heat very well, he says – but hears of all the stories. “Because of Hewitt Kim is half an Australian. When she goes outdoors there, people want to touch her. It is almost pure idolization. Kim isn’t only popular in Australia, but everywhere. It’s pretty clear when, during the Masters in the US during her match against Serena Williams, still 60% of the crowd cheers for Kim. And in Germnay 6 bodyguards had to accompany Kim because thousands of people were waiting to see her.”
Sometimes this idolization gets into extremes, like Lei Clijsters can experience in his mailbox. “We get a huge amount of letters, and there are quite a number of weird ones among these too. Like people who write to ask when Kim will come to visit them, that they have met her, and have an affair with her, or even are engaged to her."
Kim’s popularity in especially Australia is also because of the sports culture in Australia, according to Lei. “I have the impression that Kim is still more loved there than here in Belgium. You often see jealousy here. In fact you can’t rise high above the masses or your head will get cut off by a lawn-mower, while they would push you even a bit higher in Australia. That’s the difference. If Kim would adopt the Australian nationality tomorrow, than the entire country would stand up for her, they’d love to take her into their arms.”
Last December, father Lei Clijsters let it look as if Kim might take permanent residence in Australia. He considers the somewhat better tax climate compared to Belgium a welcome advantage. Conversations with Australian tax officials have given Lei the impression that Australia would be willing to give Kim a favourable financial deal, although this has been officially denied in Australia.
Even Lleyton Hewitt doesn’t have a favourable tax treatment and as top earner falls in the highest tax scale of 48.5%. “Australia is no tax haven”, says Linda Pearce. “To become Australian because of this, is a wrong motive.”
END PART ONE