Kim Clijsters, exceptional tennis with a smile!
Kim Clijsters, the spirited, athletic and down-to-earth professional tennis player, was born in Bilzen on 8 June 1983. She is the daughter of two very sporty parents : her father Lei Clijsters was an international footballer and her mother Els Vandecaetsbeek was a Belgian gymnastics champion. Kim however chose tennis as her sport of choice. In Belgium, her success earned her the nickname "Our Kim".
Kim started playing tennis at the age of six. She initially started playing in competitions at Tennisdel in Genk under the coaching of Bart Van Kerckhove from 1992 until 1996. Five years later, Kim made her grand debut in the tennis world by becoming Belgian Champion in the Minimes class. At the age of 13, Kim enrolled at the tennis school of the Flemish Tennis Federation at Wilrijk (Antwerp). This combination of tennis and schooling allowed her to progress to the international level and to meet her new coach (from 1996 until 2002), Carl Maes.
Before joining the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Kim proved her worth at the junior level by becoming, at the age of 15, the youngest Belgian Champion in the A series. That was just the beginning. She also achieved excellent results in tournaments organised by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). In 1999, she made her entrance on the WTA circuit at Antwerp, reaching the quarter final stage.
Kim was ranked world number 17 when she was just 17 herself. Her world class status was confirmed the following season with an epic final at Roland-Garros against Capriati, two Grand Slam quarter finals (at Wimbledon and the US Open), as well as three new titles. Up until 2005, she just kept on winning singles titles. She also had considerable success in doubles. She won Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2003 with Ai Sugiyama. She would go on to win a further 9 doubles titles with the Japanese player.
In 2007, Kim bowed out of a glittering career at the Diamond Games in Antwerp. Still hungry for tennis success, Kim announced her return in 2009 during a press conference. Her comeback was extremely successful. So much so that two years later, Kim was once again world number 1.
Having picked up numerous injuries, Kim retired in 2012.
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