From the Wimbledon website about Kim and Lleyton
thanks Marie for informing us!
Love All at Wimbledon
by Ronald Atkin, May 30, 2002
Everyone knows that Paris is for lovers. So, too, is Wimbledon, even if you are a player. At this year's Championships the spotlight will fall on the high-ranking romance between Lleyton Hewitt, world number one and reigning US Open champion, and Kim Clijsters, the 18-year-old from Belgium who has established herself in the top five of women's tennis.
Although in the past Wimbledon honours have occasionally gone to husband and wife teams, as well as brothers and sisters, in the doubles events, it is only in recent years that true singles romance, rather than family love, has hit the headlines.
The finest example, known as the Year of the Lovers, came in 1974 when Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert celebrated their engagement by winning the singles titles on Centre Court.
Connors, aged 21, and Evert, 19, were both playing the Championships for the third time. Having been a quarter-finalist in both 1972 and 1973, the third-seeded Connors defeated the veteran Ken Rosewall for the loss of only six games to win the title.
Evert, who had been Semi-Finalist on her debut in 1972 and finalist the following year, made the natural progression to Champion by defeating Russia's Olga Morozova as second seed to win the first of her three Wimbledon singles crowns.
To complete the story, it would have been ideal if they had won the mixed doubles, too. They did in fact enter and were seeded second, but scratched in the Third Round rather than prejudice their singles ambitions.
Although the Evert-Connors relationship did not last, Wimbledon was the background to three other relationships. Bjorn Borg married the Romanian player Mariana Simionescu a month after winning his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title in 1980 (though they had first met at the French Open four years earlier), and Evert dated another tennis player, Britain's John Lloyd, for the first time at the 1978 Wimbledon. They married a year later.
The Hewitt-Clijsters romance is an enduring one. They first met at the Australian Open two and a half years ago, when Lleyton was 18 and Kim a mere 16, and it certainly provided consolation for Clijsters on her debut there, since she lost in the first round (to a fellow Belgian, Dominique Van Roost). Hewitt, for the record, went on to the fourth round, which remains his best showing at his home Grand Slam.
Since then, despite the demands of their different circuits, they have remained close. When tournaments and long distances separate them, the two young people keep in regular touch by phone. When their events are side by side, so are Lleyton and Kim.
Hewitt told me last month, "For me, our friendship is great, because we both know the pressure involved in tennis. We both understand what's going on. Kim is four in the world at the moment, aged 18, and has a great career ahead of her.
"It's good to know what we are both going through and the feelings we have. We know when we need to stay apart from each other but if I need to talk to someone about tennis she can understand what I am going through, and the same applies when she wants to talk to me. I also like watching Kim play - but I wouldn't go to women's tennis otherwise!"
Clijsters, who was runner-up at last year's French Open to Jennifer Capriati after a 12-10 final set, says, "I know we're both very young, but I feel so comfortable with him. We can't be together every week, but that is what makes it so special."
On the occasions when they are together, time is clearly important and Kim admits, "My parents sometimes get fed up when I'm with Lleyton because I keep forgetting to call them.
"What Lleyton does with his career definitely helps me on court but when we are together we hardly ever talk about tennis. He comes to watch my matches and I watch his, but once we are together it is different."
In October 2000 both Hewitt and Clijsters reached the final of tournaments in Germany, he in Stuttgart, she in Leipzig. He lost in five sets to Wayne Ferreira, she won in three against Elena Likhovtseva. Afterwards they bridged the 200-mile gap with a phone call, part-congratulation, part-commiseration.
An outstanding memory of the 2000 Davis Cup final between Spain and Australia in Barcelona was of Clijsters at courtside, resplendent in Australian colours of green and gold, cheering on her boyfriend as enthusiastically as any native-born Aussie.
It may be that they were initially drawn together by a similar sporting background. Hewitt's father, Glynn, is a former Australian Rules player and his mother Cherilyn is a physical education teacher.
Kim's father Leo is a former international footballer who represented Belgium 40 times and her mother Els was national junior gymnastics champion.
There was, alas, no happy ending for the marriages of Borg and Evert. Simionescu's marriage to Borg in July 1980 ended in divorce following Bjorn's career burn-out, while Chris Evert, who became Mrs Evert Lloyd on tennis scoreboards following her marriage to John in April 1979, reverted to just plain Evert when they split up in 1984 and subsequently divorced.