If you haven’t already heard, Belgian Kim Clijsters announced her immediate retirement from professional tennis. She made the decision after losing to Ukranian qualifier Julia Vakulenko at this week’s J&S Cup in Warsaw.
People I’ve talked to are split in their reaction. Is Kim really done with tennis? Or does she just need a break?
I don’t think she’s done with tennis quite yet. The sport’s grueling schedule painted her into a corner, with no other choice but to retire. The same way Martina Hingis was driven away. But Hingis ended up with a broken foot, while Kim ended up with a broken spirit. I expect Kim to join Sybille Bammer in the mother-and-active-player club in a few years.
As we reflect on her absence, we should talk about another benefit to SEWTA’s Roadmap 2010: the shortened tour schedule will decrease the rate of injuries and (hopefully) lessen mental exhaustion. The tour forces players to think about tennis 24/7, making it hard for those who want to pursue other interests (i.e., lead a balanced life). Perhaps Kim wouldn’t have retired as early if the seasons were shorter. Or maybe we wouldn’t give Serena so much flack for acting, since she’d do it when no one’s looking.
The SEWTA should go even further and allow players a “leave of absence” — for up to one season — to give players a chance to better plan their careers. (Their ranking should be protected with a formula tied to how long they’re out, and how many points they have t defend.) Let them stay fresh and participate in some “extra-curricular” activities. It’ll raise the profile of the player, and they will most likely bring a new crop of fans to the courts when they’re back on the tour.
Photo: Clijsters playing her last match, at the J&S Cup in Warsaw, Poland.
>> kim clijsters: one of the nicest players i’ve met
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