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A rival steps forward (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday March 28, 2007 10:39AM; Updated: Wednesday March 28, 2007 11:34AM
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Kim Clijsters' farewell tour, in which she is playing in very few events, is rubbing some fans the wrong way.
Kim Clijsters' farewell tour, in which she is playing in very few events, is rubbing some fans the wrong way.
David Callow/SI
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Can we start a petition to send to Kim Clijsters' camp to go ahead and get her to retire now? I mean, what's the point of her even playing anymore when it's clear tennis is the furthest thing from her mind? There's really no reason she couldn't wait until the end of the season to take care of her personal affairs. I would consider myself a casual fan of hers over the years, but definitely not even that now. Isn't the fact that she's missing two majors an insult to the game and her die-hard fans?
-- Van Sias, Brooklyn, N.Y.

For a player who always seemed to say and do the right things, Clijsters' "retirement tour" has been remarkably clumsy, an exercise in tone-deafness. Judging from your mail, she's really alienating a lot of fans along the way. This has the ugly undercurrent of, "I really don't want to be out there at all, but there are sponsor commitments I need to fulfill."

Why else would a player -- and keep in mind, she started the year firmly in the top five -- bag two majors while wavering on playing Luxembourg? I always feel like I need to preface this by saying "this is not a knock," but if nothing else, this "Farewell Tour de Farce" sheds some light on Clijsters' constitution. She's passing up majors and entering events "to enjoy having fun with friends." Is it any wonder she lost many close matches and four of the five times she made it to a Grand Slam final?

Feel free to tell me I'm going overboard here, but I find there to be something upsettingly anti-feminist about all of this too. If the women are going to demand equal prize money at the majors -- and again, we say good for them -- in part by stressing the women's game is equally grueling and demanding and competitive, their case is vastly undercut when one of their top stars treats the season like a prolonged hit-and-giggle.

Clijsters blows off a major because it comes near -- it doesn't even conflict with -- her honeymoon. (The "thank you" note for the gravy boat can wait; everyone will understand.) She can't stop with these gushy statements about the domestic bliss and dogs and babies that await when she's done with the Dickensian sweatshop of pro tennis.

More relevant, her competitive instincts are completely gone. Perhaps her last match in the U.S.? A defeat the other day in Miami to Li Na? Her Wimbledon preparations: "I'll be doing some cooking and will be training a bit." What? Really, if you want to retire and get off the carousel, bless you. But if you're going to play, treat the tour with a little respect, and not as an optional sorority function. Somewhere, Gladys Heldman is surely shaking her head.

I was thrilled to learn that my cable provider was going to offer the Tennis Channel right as the Sony Ericsson started. How disappointed I have been in the coverage. While Venus and Maria are playing they are showing a rerun of Monday night's Federer match. Why oh why are they only showing the men's matches? What is going on? This is crazy.
-- Jennifer, Overland Park, Kan.

Here's Tennis Channel programming: "These matches actually did air, but because the men's matches ran long, people probably tuned out before the women's matches. Last night's WTA match didn't start until about 11:20 p.m. Eastern (more than two hours behind schedule.) Then, of course, the repeats of the men's matches started up as soon as the WTA coverage ended. What we ended up with was about two hours of WTA coverage sandwiched in between about 22 hours of ATP coverage."

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