Clijsters bids farewell to 'Disneyland'

By Paul Majendie, Reuters

Posted at Jul 03 2012 01:08 PM | Updated as of Jul 03 2012 09:08 PM

LONDON - When Kim Clijsters first came to Wimbledon as a junior she described the All England Club as "like Disneyland to another child".

But on Monday the Belgian bid a poignant farewell to the world's most famous tournament in the worst possible way, taking just two games off German Angelique Kerber in a 6-1 6-1 fourth-round defeat.

One of the most popular players on the circuit, who is retiring for a second time after the U.S. Open, was certainly not wallowing in nostalgia and self-pity.

"Not at all," she told a news conference. "I just had the feeling that there was absolutely nothing I could have done today to win the match."

The memories flooded back as she recalled how her father always sat in the same seat every day because he thought it would bring her luck, but the English weather spoiled the fairy story.

"He was here for three or four days and I don't think he saw me play for one minute because it rained for three days in a row," she said.

Clijsters, who never reached the Wimbledon final, retired from tennis in 2007 to have a family and her father died before she made a spectacular comeback in 2009 and won the U.S. Open weeks later.

The enduring image of that victory will be Clijsters and her 18-month old daughter Jada revelling in the limelight after she won. She and basketball player Brian Lynch posed proudly as their daughter played with the trophy.

Cljisters, the first mother to win a grand slam tournament since Evonne Goolagong-Cawley in 1980, is now nurturing those memories with Jada who is the spitting image of her mother.

"I explain to her more about tennis on the road, especially here about Wimbledon, about the history," she said. "I have caught myself explaining to little details that I remember when I was a child."

Those first matches at Wimbledon as a junior certainly ranked as treasured souvenirs.

"I think the first year that I played here, I was here just to take it all in," she said. “"This was like Disneyland to another child. So it was such a beautiful thing.

"Playing Steffi (Graf) here was for me definitely one of the my dreams come true as a young up-and-coming player. To be playing Steffi in her last Wimbledon was very, very special."