Tuesday, May 02, 2017

WTA Insider Podcast: WTA Finals Ambassador Kim Clijsters

Former World No.1 Kim Clijsters weighs in on her new role as ambassador for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, and what we can expect from Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in their post-motherhood careers.

STUTTGART, Germany - Former No.1 Kim Clijsters has been announced as the new WTA Finals Legend Ambassador, joining the Martina Navratilova and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario to promote the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global throughout the year. Clijsters is a four-time major champion who captured three WTA Finals titles and 41 singles titles overall, before retiring in 2012.

"I felt very honored when they asked me, so it was a no-brainer to try and help out and be involved in the WTA Finals because the WTA Finals have been a very important tournament in my career.

"I won the WTA Finals before I won a grand slam. It was my first big result and I was able to beat the best players that were on tour at that time. They helped me a lot with my confidence. They've always been a very unique experience, the WTA Finals. Sharing moments when I was younger, my father being there, playing in the States and playing at the Staples Center and Madison Square Garden, they were unique experiences. I feel very lucky that I've been able to experience those. I also played in Doha after I had Jada and I won there. They were all very unique in their own way.

"I see that now with Singapore having watched it on TV. Last year I was up at night and watching Dominika Cibulkova with all her emotions, kind of dragging you into the matches. It just brings back memories for me. Little flashes of my past life on tour."

In addition to her role as a WTA Finals ambassador, Clijsters will be on the road more than she has in the past few years, as she also plans to play the legends events at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Now 33, Clijsters says tournament life still feels very foreign to her.

"I'm just so used to my life and my routine at home that this almost feels selfish in a way, being here, being in a hotel room and not having much to do," Clijsters said. "Yesterday I arrived, I drove here, and I had a few hours before the event started. I was in my room and I was like 'What do I do?' So I called home and Skyped with the kids," she said with an embarrassed laugh.

Listen to Clijsters discuss a whole range of topics, from the state of the tour to her thoughts on Serena Williams' pregnancy, and Victoria Azarenka's impending return after having a child. Few have a better understanding of what it's like to be a mother on tour. After retiring in 2007, Clijsters came out of retirement in 2009 and proceeded to win three Slams as well as the 2010 WTA Finals in Doha. Her romp to the 2009 US Open title, which came within months of returning to the tour, left an indelible mark on the sport, with heart-warming scenes of her daughter Jada running around Arthur Ashe Stadium celebrating her triumph.

"No, she does not remember," Clijsters said, when asked if Jada remembers being on court that day. "Of course we have photos and videos. She's at that age where she goes on YouTube and she types in my name. She sees her at the US Open and she's telling her friends "That's me! My mom won this big trophy!" and then she runs and gets the trophy.

"She asked me the other day if I can start playing tennis again so she doesn't have to go to school anymore and she can go back on tour."

That return isn't likely, but it will be fantastic to see Clijsters around the tour more often over the next year. Always a tour favorite among players, fans, and writers, the tour is a happier place whenever Kim is around.

On how she decided to come out of retirement after having her first child:

"I think one of the biggest differences with me was that when I retired I didn't think I was going to play tennis again. I was like, I'm done. I had a year to deal with the grief of my father passing away at the time, and then having a baby and everything that comes with that, finding your way as a mother. I was very happy.

"I know that it helped me further down the road to win the US Open as quickly as I did because I had a full year before I was an athlete again. I started playing tennis and practicing because I was going to play some exhibitions. I called my trainer and he said, ok, let's start with a light schedule. Gradually I thought, huh, this is still going well and maybe I'm too young to just play exhibitions. But I kept that to myself. I needed to think this through and maybe it will pass. But the motivation only grew stronger."

"My initial plan was to start at the 2010 Australian Open, but then I thought well, I don't want to have all that attention at a big tournament straight away. So I played some tournaments in the States. We planned to play those to play some matches and get the feel for traveling with a baby on tour. And before you know it..."

On the motivation that drove her comeback:

"I did feel at times that I had some unfinished business. That feeling came back. I felt like I had more in me than I showed in my first career. So that is a motivation. You forget after a while. A lot of people talk about you being a mother, but as a player you forget about that. That's a question that's being asked by the media after every match. What are you going to do now? Is your daughter waiting, is she still going to be up? I never thought about that."

On Serena and Azarenka:

"It's really exciting. I'm really excited for Serena and Vika because this is real life stuff. I'm not saying tennis isn't real life but sometimes it's not really reality. But parenting, giving birth, there's no feeling, no win, no tennis trophy comes even close to how you feel after having a baby. I'm happy that they get to experience that."

On the importance of experience on tour:

"There comes a point in your career where you feel like you have it figured out. By figured out I don't mean how to play tennis, but you learn to deal with everything. You learn how to deal with things that affect you a certain way. What affects you negatively, what makes you play better. That's an important thing to figure out. That's such an important thing to have when you come back.

"When I play a tournament now, I can switch on. Physically I'm not the same, but mentally I can switch on. I know how I react and I know the tricks of the game. That's there and nobody can teach you that except experience."

"Mentally being composed out there and not wasting energy on pointless stuff, which I guess is life in general. Once you figure that out on court, something gets added on and you become a better player when you have that. I see that with Serena. She was always a great tennis player. But she was not that consistent. Now you can see she has it figured out. I'll be very excited to watch when Serena comes back on tour."

Podcast included in article link.  Great listen. 

No comments: