Clijsters yearns for domesticity

Fourth seed Kim Clijsters has announced that she is eager to start a family and will retire at the end of the year.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Kim Clijsters is looking forward to housekeeping. Really. The 24-year-old Belgian, seeded fourth at the Australian Open, has announced that she will retire at the end of the year, eager to start a family and tired of nagging injuries that have made recovery and physical therapy a regular part of her training regime. She plans to marry Brian Lynch, an American who plays basketball in Belgium, in July or August after wrapping up her last Wimbledon. Clijsters won three titles last year and finished in the top five in the rankings for the third time. But she had to quit in the semifinals here with an ankle sprain, strained her left hip later in the year, then suffered a strain on her surgically repaired left wrist that kept her from defending her US Open title, her lone Grand Slam title. Although she's still young, she turned professional in 1997, and all the pounding on the court has taken a toll. "I played a lot of matches over the years that I was fit," Clijsters said on Sunday. "I played a lot of singles and doubles. I think that's just very demanding on the body. "The last couple years, I really started to realize that my body's physically not able to do that any more. I know how well I was able to feel when I played some of my best tennis, and how well I felt. Not always having that now is very frustrating. There's nothing so frustrating as to be an athlete and not be able to do what you're capable of." Renowned for her hustle and tendency to do splits while stretching for wide shots, she starts the Open on a streak and looking sharp. She won the Sydney warmup tournament Saturday night after beating Maria Sharapova at an exhibition in Hong Kong, and feels her game has been steadily improving during that stretch. Most importantly, she is healthier than she has in a long time. "I feel good," Clijsters said. "And that's the most important thing. Physically, nothing is bothering me." Still, even though she appears to be in top form, she isn't second-guessing her retirement decision. Money shouldn't be a problem, with US$14 million in career earnings already, not including lucrative endorsements. Family comes first Asked on Sunday if she enjoys housework, Clijsters responded with a resounding yes. "I really do," she said. "I love taking care of Brian and my dogs. I'd like to have kids." A full wedding is being scheduled for Belgium - "We've just started planning," she said with obvious pleasure - with a smaller ceremony to follow in New Jersey, where Lynch's family lives. Clijsters didn't rule out a possible comeback but said she hasn't looked that far ahead. Family comes first. "It would be a lot harder (to play) if I had a big belly," she laughed. Long a crowd favorite Down Under _ she once was engaged to Australian tennis star Lleyton Hewitt and is known for a warm, down-to-earth personality _ Clijsters said that what she'll miss most is the travel to exotic places and meeting people. "Just saying goodbye at the end of a tournament makes it harder as well," she said. "You always expect to come back and see all the people again. Some you keep in contact with throughout the year. That's probably the hardest, I think, is not seeing all the people and the friends that I've met throughout the years. "There's volunteers that I met at tournaments. When I meet them, we go out to dinner, hang out when there's a players' party. Things like that. Have nice conversations. "That's what's fun. To me it's never just been tennis. I just like to meet people and make friends."