SOURCE: MELBOURNE'S HERALD SUN NEWSPAPER http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/kim...-1225992750665
Kim Clijsters' Parenting Game Plan
Joanne Hawkins From: National Features January 23, 2011 1:00AM
STILL at the top of her game at 27, tennis supermum Kim Clijsters has reached match point with motherhood.
I started playing tennis at the age of four.
My dad played soccer [for Belgium] and, in 1988, he won player of the year. He’d said that if he won it, he’d build a court in our garden.
I was introverted as a child, but tennis was my outlet.
I felt confident when I was focusing on the ball, but the minute I came off the court, I went back to being shy.
Stepping into the pro tennis spotlight was hard at first.
When I played my first Grand Slam semi-final, at the French Open in 2001, my life changed overnight. I was 17 and it took some time to adjust to the attention.
When I retired from professional tennis in 2007, I was convinced that was it.
I’d met a guy [American basketballer Brian Lynch], and I wasn’t really enjoying my tennis any more. I was ready for the next phase of life. I didn’t miss it at all. I was busy getting married and having my daughter, Jada, in 2008.
If my dad hadn’t passed away in 2009, I probably wouldn’t have returned to tennis.
That year, I was invited to play at Wimbledon to mark the opening of the Centre Court roof, and I thought it would be a nice thing to do to take my mind off losing Dad.
Gradually I began to think about competing again.
I was getting back in shape after having Jada and I wondered if I could still compete against the top players. Brian was ready to retire after a couple of injuries and said he’d “come on this adventure” with me.
Winning the US Open in 2009 was like a dream.
It was my third tournament since my comeback and I didn’t expect it. It was emotional because my dad wasn’t part of it, but I felt he was there. When I was in the car on the way to my semi-final against Serena Williams, I was really nervous. Suddenly, one of Dad’s favourite songs by Barry White came on the radio. I started laughing and crying. And, after that, I felt a lot more relaxed.
I had a lot of guilt when I first started playing again.
During the Australian Open last year, Jada would go to the zoo with her nanny, and I’d feel guilty, as though I was putting tennis before her. But I think I’ve found a good balance now. I’m lucky I get to travel the world with the two people closest to me. The tour is much easier now Jada is older. She loves staying in hotel rooms.
It feels like a lifetime since I was engaged to Lleyton.
[Clijsters broke off her engagement to Hewitt in 2004, after a four-year relationship.] I was very young. My life has changed for the better now; I feel very lucky with where I am.
I spoke to him after Dad died.
But we don’t keep in touch. I want him to be happy, but I don’t think there’s any need for a connection.
I feel very welcome in Australia.
When I was with Lleyton, I spent a lot of time here; it was a second home. The food and people are great.
Being a professional sportsperson is a fake life.
Dad taught me to remember that and not be too full of yourself. Nothing disgusts me more than a person suddenly thinking they’re better than someone else. Some younger girls on the tour get caught up in the celebrity thing. That’s hard to deal with when you stop playing and the attention stops, too.
I want to play until the 2012 Olympics.
But if it becomes difficult for Jada or Brian, I’ll stop. Tennis is fun, but I can easily live without it.
Kim Clijsters is a member of the WTA, sponsored by Sony Ericsson, and is seeded number three at the Australian Open.