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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 09:25 AM Thread Starter
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Kim: Famous Belgian but always the bridesmaid

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/340cac8c-16...00e2511c8.html

Famous Belgian but always the bridesmaid
By Simon Kuper

Published: August 26 2005 18:24 | Last updated: August 26 2005 18:24

When you get close to a great athlete, you usually feel like a troll. They are so healthy their skin glistens, they take afternoon naps and, whether male or female, they could beat you up if it came to it. Kim Clijsters is different. Passing the Belgian in a corridor recently, I initially took her for a chubby peasant girl from a Brueghel painting. The only thing that marked her out as a professional athlete was that she was writing a text message, which is generally their hobby.

Yet Clijsters, 22, is currently the world’s most in-form female tennis player. This fortnight she should win the US Open, her first Grand Slam. If she doesn’t do it this time, she may never.

Despite appearances, Clijsters was born to sporting greatness. Her mother Els was a Belgian gymnastics champion; her father Lei a Belgian international footballer. That may sound like damning him with faint praise, but his side reached the World Cup semi-final in 1986. In a communist regime, two specimens like Lei and Els Clijsters would have been ordered to breed. In Belgium it just happened.

In 1988, when Lei Clijsters was voted Belgian footballer of the year, he celebrated by building a tennis court in the garden. It proved a poor investment: his two daughters played perhaps 20 matches on it. Kim was already busy making an impact at local clubs and in tournaments. Even as a kid, she was touring the world with another Belgian child a year older than her named Justine Henin. Each always strove to outdo the other. The rivalry helped make both players.

Clijsters’s other role model was her father. In part, her career is a rerun of his. Lei returned from serious injury; so can she. He never watched his own matches on TV; she doesn’t watch hers. Despite having a Rubensesque build, Clijsters also inherited her mother’s agility. It goes into her most characteristic on-court move: doing the splits to reach a ball.

Today Lei Clijsters, bearded and snarling, a silent presence at his daughter’s matches, looks like the archetypal crazy tennis dad. However, he insists he never pushed Kim. Rather, what seems to have happened is that the family took sporting achievement for granted. Of course Kim practised non-stop. Of course she hated losing. Of course she became great. Of course her sister, Elke, briefly played on tour before retiring with injury last year. Sport was the family trade, just as other families run restaurants, and thus nothing to make a fuss about.

When Kim acquired a boyfriend, Lleyton Hewitt, who happened to be the world’s number one male player, the Clijsters remained blasé. Lei reported: “Whenever Lleyton stays at our house, he helps clear the table and says ‘thank-you’ 100 times a day. Only on court is he a different person.” Indeed: Hewitt has a hunger that Clijsters lacks. Asked before one Wimbledon whether she would prefer him to win it or her, she replied: “Lleyton. I don’t like seeing him unhappy.”

Probably not by chance, Clijsters has lost all her four Grand Slam finals. Another Belgian player, Kirsten Flipkens, hints that she might suffer from fear of success.

Yet by 2003, Clijsters had risen to be world number one. She would kid around with opponents or their dogs or godchildren before a match, destroy said opponent on court with beefy forehands, and then kid around again. She played tag with Anna Kournikova. Flipkens recalls wrestling with Clijsters at the US Open: “She won, of course.”

Clijsters has been voted most popular woman on tour. She sends text messages and goes for dinner with troubled colleagues: Daniela Hantuchova, who became dangerously thin, and Anastasia Myskina, whose mother has cancer. Clijsters’s own mother is recovering from the disease, but Kim stayed outwardly cheery throughout the horror. Carl Maes even resigned as her coach because he felt she didn’t need him: “Kim is so uncomplicated that nothing ever goes wrong with her.”

Her simplicity enchants Belgians. She and Henin have made this the only European country where big tennis matches draw more viewers than the national football team, though admittedly the side is now pathetic. Kids are flooding into tennis clubs. Recently “Kimmie”, as Belgians call her, was even immortalised in Belgium’s most characteristic artistic genre: the comic book.

De Fat Cup tells the story of Clijsters being taken by helpful Belgian farmers to the wrong tennis tournament: not to the Fed Cup, but the Fat Cup, a tournament for fat women. Of course Clijsters lets her opponent win. Hec Leemans, who wrote the story, insisted to me that Fat Cup didn’t refer to Clijsters’s build. He claims she is slender. But Leemans says the cartoon’s publication proves that in Belgium “she is approaching the status of Eddy Merckx”, the legendary cyclist.

Even French-speaking Belgians adore Clijsters. King Albert – whom Clijsters once kissed instead of curtsying to – has used tennis to argue that this country riven by language should stick together. “The general enthusiasm over the successes of Justine and Kim is witness to our unity,” he said, to which one columnist retorted: “But what is left when these multicultural heroines get tennis elbow?”

It was a good question, because Clijsters and Henin both missed most of 2004 with injuries. Clijsters, who had hurt her wrist, even thought of retiring to open a campsite. Her sponsor, Belgacom, dropped her and she split up with Hewitt. Instead of marrying Kim this year, as per plan, he married an Australian actress. Their baby is due in October. Clijsters is now seeing an American basketball player.

In February she returned to tennis better than ever. All summer she has ruled the hard courts of North America, a continent where she has won 35 of her last 36 matches. “Clijsters deserves to win a Grand Slam,” says John McEnroe.

If not now, when? She said this week she would probably retire in 2007, aged 24. “My body is already causing me many worries,” she explained. By the time of the 2008 Olympics it would be “worn out”. Maes adds: “Kim has no goals in tennis. She has no ambitions, though she gives herself 200 per cent.” Even so, winning the US Open would be nice, and might give her that crucial nudge in October’s all-important election of Greatest Belgian.

But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 10:35 AM
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How can she have no goals? Otherwise a great read.

Rena- a tennis great! 22 at striking distance.
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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 10:40 AM
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Thanks
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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 10:46 AM
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Great read, only a bit stupid the writer acts like Kim is build like a whale
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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 10:49 AM
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Thanks for the good read.

Kim Clijsters

#1 FOREVER






Venus Williams Justine Henin Amelie Mauresmo Elena Dementieva
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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Passing the Belgian in a corridor recently, I initially took her for a chubby peasant girl from a Brueghel painting.

Despite appearances, Clijsters was born to sporting greatness.

Despite having a Rubensesque build, Clijsters also inherited her mother’s agility.

Hec Leemans, who wrote the story, insisted to me that Fat Cup didn’t refer to Clijsters’s build. He claims she is slender.
Poor Kim, being a fat cow and all
The author focuses way too much on insignificant things IMO.
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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 10:58 AM
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Asked before one Wimbledon whether she would prefer him to win it or her, she replied: “Lleyton. I don’t like seeing him unhappy.”

She always sounded like a stepford wife when she was with him. Glad she escaped.
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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 11:10 AM
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but i love Bree Van De Kamp...hehe

beautifully written article

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Petra Kvitova - Svetlana Kuznetsova - Li Na - Sloane Stephens - Madison Keys

Will Always Love Kim Clijsters and Elena Dementieva
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 11:50 AM
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Bizarre -- Kim is not a bit overweight. I don't get where that's coming from.
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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 12:06 PM
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strange article...but nice to read - thx
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post #11 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by janie
Bizarre -- Kim is not a bit overweight. I don't get where that's coming from.
She isn't at the moment, but look at pictures from 1999-2002ish and she may not be unfit but she's looking very chunky and it wasn't helped by the fact that she has a plump face. When she's not in tennis gear you can't see that the bulk is, in fact, muscle rather than fat which also makes her look a bit on the Rubenesque side.
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post #12 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by saki
She isn't at the moment, but look at pictures from 1999-2002ish and she may not be unfit but she's looking very chunky and it wasn't helped by the fact that she has a plump face. When she's not in tennis gear you can't see that the bulk is, in fact, muscle rather than fat which also makes her look a bit on the Rubenesque side.
Except he says he walked by her recently - what does how she looked in the past have to do with how she looks now? The focus on her looks was highly unnecessary and far too personal...I did think it slighly amusing that in the online article there's a nice big picture of the writer next to that paragraph and he's not exactly Brad Pitt himself
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post #13 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by panda7
Except he says he walked by her recently - what does how she looked in the past have to do with how she looks now? The focus on her looks was highly unnecessary and far too personal...I did think it slighly amusing that in the online article there's a nice big picture of the writer next to that paragraph and he's not exactly Brad Pitt himself
Eh, I don't think it's any more personal than many descriptions in articles about players. I've certainly seen references to Sveta's looks that are fairly similar in tone. Kim's not looking quite as chunky as she used to but she's still a big girl, especially in non-tennis clothing, and it is still (I think) suprising how agile she is given her body shape.
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post #14 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 04:37 PM
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His description of Kim is real BS. She looks so enormously fit! And I happen to know how the women in a Brueghel painting look like (who doesn't), somewhat differently

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post #15 of 31 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2005, 04:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saki
Eh, I don't think it's any more personal than many descriptions in articles about players. I've certainly seen references to Sveta's looks that are fairly similar in tone. Kim's not looking quite as chunky as she used to but she's still a big girl, especially in non-tennis clothing, and it is still (I think) suprising how agile she is given her body shape.
Come on, are you serious


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