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Is Clijsters already done?

Debating Kim's ambivalence, the state of the WTA

Posted: Wednesday February 14, 2007 8:25AM; Updated: Wednesday February 14, 2007 2:07PM
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Hobbled Kim Clijsters has pulled out of next month's Indian Wells and likely the French Open as well to rest up for Wimbledon.
Hobbled Kim Clijsters has pulled out of next month's Indian Wells and likely the French Open as well to rest up for Wimbledon.
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Happy Valentines Day. Let me start by expressing profound disappointment in you guys.

This was supposed to be an all-Nikolay Davydenko Mailbag, a special edition devoted to the fame-deprived Russian. But we had more questions about the exact color of Serena's purse, Roger Federer's racket switch and Fernando Verdasco's erratic results than about the world's No. 3 player!

We're extending the deadline a week. If you ever wanted to know what Davydenko likes to drink after dinner, where he shops or, for that matter, simply what he looks like, you have a few more days.

Onward ...

Throughout her career I have always rooted for Kim Clijsters. The consummate professional and all around likeable girl, how could one not cheer her on? However, recently I read that she was planning on skipping both Indian Wells and the French Open. If this is her last season on tour, why on earth would Kim bail on such big tournaments, never mind a Grand Slam? This is her last chance at winning in Paris and she's opting to skip it to "rest." Won't she have plenty of time to rest after she retires? While I still respect Clijsters, it's hard to root for someone who doesn't even seem to want it that badly herself.
-- Mike, New Hampshire

We recently wrote about our ambivalence toward Clijsters. The big question in Melbourne was "Why is she retiring?" My question was, "Why is she playing?" Tennis players are independent operators, bound to no employment contracts. If she wants to quit at 23 to pursue a family -- or, for that matter, learn to play glockenspiel or do Sudoku -- more power to her. Puzzling to me is that she seems to be desultorily playing out the string like a member of the Kansas City Royals in the dog days of a baseball season.

She remains without a coach, which has not helped her tennis. She rhapsodizes about retirement every chance she gets. On her talent and native athleticism alone, she can get to the quarters or semis of most Slams, but she's shown little fire when she's gotten there. I haven't heard an official announcement, but it does sound like the French -- an event she once came a few points from winning -- has been crossed off her schedule.

Again, she's certainly earned the right to go out on her terms. But it seems to me her head and heart are so far from removed from "champion mentality" right now, she may as well take a final curtsy and go gently into that good night.

Have you been threatened by the women's tour? Not a single comment in your post-Aussie mailbag on the defining aspect of the current tour -- a total lack of talent except for Serena. I cannot recall the No. 1 player in the world ever being humiliated so badly in a championship match in any sport and yet you avoid comment like Donald Trump avoids good taste? Long live Justin Gimelstob.
-- Mike, San Diego

Go ahead and accuse me being bribed by the WTA. But "Long love Justin Gimelstob?" Heaven help us all. Actually, Justin and I have been debating this issue over e-mail.

I see his point and agree that it doesn't help the credibility of the WTA when a player with very little preparation swoops in and beats five seeds, including a blow-out of the world's top player. But it's not like we're talking about Marion Bartoli or Sybille Bammer here. Serena Williams is -- to use an indelicate phrase -- a freak, a one-in-four-billion talent who also happens to compete like no other player.

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