Mom on a new mission

Last Updated : 18 September 2010, 15:35 IST
Last Updated : 18 September 2010, 15:35 IST

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Kim Clijsters wants more major titles and more children, goals that would appear as incompatible as John McEnroe and silence.

Clijsters defeated Vera Zvonareva to win her third US Open championship, then celebrated on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Jada Lynch, who was not impressed.

At one point Clijsters’ daughter looked at the photographers whose lenses were pointed at her and said, “No photos.”

In Clijsters’ opinion, that was the highlight of the night. None of her 17 winners (to Zvonareva’s 6) were even close.

“If we take pictures she’s the same way,” a smiling Clijsters said a day after her triumph in an interview with a group of reporters at her Midtown hotel. “She just doesn’t want anything of it. She doesn’t like it. I enjoy seeing that. I enjoy seeing her express her emotions.”

The difference in the final was that Clijsters kept her emotions in check much better than Zvonareva, who ruined one racket in a fit of frustration and was steering her shots rather than hitting through the ball, a sure sign of nerves.

Clijsters, 27, could sympathise. She appeared in four major finals before winning her first Grand Slam title, at the 2005 Open. The pressure, she said, overwhelmed her when she was younger.

“I still get nervous,” she said Saturday night, “and get that heavy arm, but I’m able to control it better.”

Clijsters described the emotions that accompany a Grand Slam final as “something that is very hard to describe unless you’ve felt it.”

She added that with age and experience, “you get to know yourself a lot better. You learn to deal with, ‘how can I solve those kinds of emotions in a short time?’ I still have nerves, but I know, OK, this is what I need to do to try to control it.”

In 2009, Clijsters was a surprise winner, an unseeded player who was competing in her third tournament after ending a 27-month retirement. She described this year’s title run as more satisfying because she was saddled with the expectations and the bull’s-eye that come with being the defending champion ...and No 2 seed.

“I think it’s in a way more satisfying that I was able to defend my title,” Clijsters said.
She said her approach to tennis had changed since Jada was born in February 2008. Clijsters schedules practices, fitness sessions and physical therapy around her daughter’s eating and sleeping schedule. Jada will be starting school soon, she said, which will make the juggling act easier for her and her husband, Brian Lynch.

Asked if she can be a full-time mother and a part-time Grand Slam champion, Clijsters smiled and said, “That’s what I’m going to have to be.” She added, “It’s hard to answer and kind of predict what the future will bring, but it’s definitely something as a mother your priorities change.”

Clijsters, who is from Belgium, said she has turned down endorsements that would trade on her status as tennis’ most high-profile working mother because the companies wanted to include Jada.

“That’s something that I don’t want,” Clijsters said, adding: “I also don’t see her as a business object. You saw how she reacts to the cameras. I’m not going to put her through that. It’s not worth it to me for money.”

Clijsters’ younger sister, Elke, who also played professional tennis, is pregnant with her second child “and her kids are going to be a year apart,” she said wistfully.

“I’ve said from the beginning that the Olympics are something I would like to achieve,” Clijsters said of the 2012 London Games. “I don’t think it would be possible to have a baby and then try to come back for the Olympics. I don’t know if I can physically do that.”
Clijsters looked fresh despite having slept only three hours. New York’s vibe — or maybe it’s the blue court and bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium — brings out the best in her.
She has not won a major outside the Open, which led Clijsters to joke that maybe what she needs is for the grass at Wimbledon and the clay at Roland Garros to be painted blue.

“If I can do that and if I can practice hard and work hard, the Grand Slams will always be my focus,” she said. “So now that I’m playing well, obviously I’m not going to just give it up. I just want to keep it up.”
Karen Crouse
New York Times News Service

Published 18 September 2010, 15:35 IST

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