Kim Clijsters is used to riding out storms.
In 2009, Clijsters, the affable Belgian, calmly waited out a furious tirade by Serena Williams in the semifinals of the United States Open that ultimately cost Williams a penalty on match point and sent Clijsters into the final. The next day, she won the second of her three U.S. Open championships, less than a year after returning to the tour following the birth of her first child. She won the title again in 2010 before retiring in 2012.
Now, the Hall of Famer and former world No. 1 is back for a third go-round. She rejoined the W.T.A. Tour in February, losing two close first-round matches, only to be stopped by the pandemic and then by a tropical storm at the Jersey Shore town where she, her husband, the basketball coach Brian Lynch, and their three children live part time. The following interview has been edited and condensed.
First the pandemic, then the storm. Is your return cursed, or did you enjoy the time off?
Because Brian’s always coaching or at games, this was the first time we were all together, like every minute of every day. The first few weeks I was super motivated. I cleaned my closets, went through all my kids’ clothes, organized everything, redid the pantry. Then I hit a wall, and it was like, “Why was I in my pajamas all day?” or “Hmm, I should probably shower.”
It’s been 17 years since you first ascended to No. 1. That’s almost half a lifetime ago.
It feels like a different life, to be honest. It was all very innocent. I loved what I was doing, I loved traveling the world, going to these new places, being on tour with women who I used to watch on TV. But I also think it was a good thing that I didn’t win my first final at the French Open in 2001. [She lost to Jennifer Capriati 1-6, 6-4, 12-10.] Thinking about it now, I wouldn’t have been ready for all that comes with a Grand Slam.