London – Four-time Grand Slam title winner Kim Clijsters said goodbye to Wimbledon for the final time on Monday, taking away a lifetime of memories from a tournament she likened to Disneyland.
Clijsters's ninth and final Wimbledon before she retires for good after the US Open ended in a dispiriting 6-1, 6-1 loss in the fourth round to German eighth seed Angelique Kerber out on Court Three.
“It all started from when I was a youngster, being at home, watching Wimbledon during summer holidays in Belgium, watching it on TV,” said Clijsters.
“You just kind of felt the magic coming through the television. Then as I got older, when I was able to be here for the first time as a junior, it was just very special. This was like Disneyland to another child. It was such a beautiful thing.”
But the 29-year-old believes her best memory will be of seeing her father Lei, a former Belgian international footballer, spending a fruitless four days at the All England Club, waiting for the rain to stop.
The picture of her father's frustration is even more poignant as he lost his battle with cancer in January 2009.
“I think 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,” said Clijsters.
“He sat on the side of the courts on the wooden benches. He sat in the rain and waited for the ballkids or the groundsmen to take the covers off because he wanted that seat because he thought that would bring me luck.
“So he just sat on that seat. The next day again he rushed over to that seat. So that's one of the funny ones that I have.”
“Playing Steffi Graf here (in 1999) was for me definitely one of my dreams come true as a young up-and-coming player. To be playing her in her last Wimbledon was very, very special.”
Clijsters never won Wimbledon, failing to get beyond the semi-finals, which she reached in 2003 and 2009.
That blemish was more than wiped out by her ascent to the world number one spot and her capture of four Grand Slam tiles Ä the US Open in 2005, 2009 and 2010, as well as at the 2011 Australian Open.
This year was her ninth visit but she missed the 2007, 2008 and 2009 tournaments when took her first retirement, getting married and starting a family with husband, Brian Lynch.
Their daughter Jada was born in February 2008.
Despite her defeat on Monday, Clijsters said she didn't feel particular sadness at her departure from the competition.
“I was thinking about the match still. Wasn't so much about the last time,” she said.
“I just had the feeling that there was absolutely nothing I could have done to have won that match. I felt my opponent was better on every level.”
Kerber, who now has a tour-leading 44 wins this year, goes on to face fellow German Sabine Lisicki, who knocked out top seed Maria Sharapova, for a place in the last four.
Kerber reached her first Wimbledon quarter-final by thumping 19 – winners to Clijsters' 10. – Sapa-AFP