Vol. 5 Num 1041 Mon. May 07, 2007  

Clijsters announces retirement

Belgian tennis star and former world number one Kim Clijsters has announced her immediate retirement from the sport, according to a statement on her personal website on Sunday.

Clijsters, who has won 34 WTA singles titles in her career including the US Open in 2005, had already announced that this would be her final year on the circuit.

On Sunday she said in the statement that battling injuries and the constant effort to stay at the top had finally taken their toll.

"It has been more than beautiful. But it's time to hang up my racquet for good," said Clijsters, who had already announced this season would be her last.

"After the fantastic and moving farewell in Antwerp all good things must come to an end."

Clijsters admitted she could have carried on but the hunger was gone.

"It would have been easy for me to compete in several more tournaments and earn more money but my health and my enjoyment of life are more important for me than the money," said Clijsters, whose father Leo had a stellar career as a Belgian international footballer reaching the 1986 World Cup semi-finals where they lost to Argentina.

Clijsters lost in the Antwerp final to Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, but the Belgian said that concerns over injury and the constant efforts to remain a top contender had led her to leave the sport slightly earlier than planned.

"The constantly returning injuries, the laborious crawl out of bed in the morning and the time it takes to warm up tired muscles ... make it all the more difficult to continue"

The 23-year-old Clijsters won her last WTA crown at Sydney in January and was eliminated from the Warsaw WTA event this week in the first round by Ukrainian qualifier Julia Vakulenko in straight sets.

In early April 2006, Clijsters - who was formerly engaged to Australian tennis ace Lleyton Hewitt - announced her engagement to American pro basketball player Brian Lynch who now plays in Belgium.

She is due to marry Lynch in July.

"I am now going to devote my time to organising my wedding on July 14," she said.

"With all that going on it will become increasingly difficult to focus on tennis." Clijsters said earlier this season she would be playing less as her career wound down, and had announced she would not play in two of the season's Grand Slams - Roland Garros and the US Open.

After her elimination from Warsaw Clijsters admitted that recent injuries had already made up her mind over her future.

"I still like to play tennis but my injuries the last few years have made me not enjoy it as much as before," she had said.

"Last year I was working with trainers but would still get injury problems."

Kim Clijsters
Born: 08/06/1983

Birthplace: Bilzen (Belgium)

Nationality: Belgian

Height: 1.74 m

Weight: 68 kg

Professional debut: 1997

Titles Tournaments: 34 singles, 11 doubles

Australian Open: final (2004), semi-finals (2003, 2007)

French Open: final (2001, 2003), semi-finals (2006), doubles title (2003)

Wimbledon: semi-finals (2003, 2006), doubles title (2003)

US Open: won (2005), final (2003)

Won 2 Masters (Los Angeles 2002, 2003), 2 semi-finals (2001, 2006)

Won 1 Fed Cup (2001)

Elected best player for 2005 by International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Highest world ranking: 1st (August 2003)

Best year ending world ranking: 2nd (2003, 2005)

World ranking on announcement of retirement: 4th

Kim Clijsters