Wimbledon 2006 Biography: Kim Clijsters

Unbeknownst to most, Kim Clijsters is the current world’s number two-ranked female tennis player, and at one time, was the world’s number one player. In 1999, Clijsters made her breakthrough professionally when she made it through the main draw of Wimbledon, and into to the fourth round, where she lost to her childhood idol Steffi Graf. Later that summer, Clijsters reached the third round of the US Open, losing to eventual champion Serena Williams.

Clijsters would climb her way up the rankings over the next couple of years using her powerful, well-placed groundstrokes and her speed and athleticism. In 2001, she reached her first Grand Slam final at the French Open, where she lost an extremely close match to Jennifer Capriati, by a score of 12-10 in the third set. Her next important breakthrough came at the end of 2002, when she won the year-end WTA Tour Championships in Los Angeles, scoring a huge win in the final over then world number one, Serena Williams.

Clijsters had her career-best season in 2003 when won nine singles tournaments and seven doubles titles (including French Open and Wimbledon) that year. Among her singles tournament runs was the defending her WTA Tour Championships title, and reaching two Grand Slam finals (French Open and US Open), losing on both occasions to Justine Henin (now Henin-Hardenne).

On 11 August 2003, she attained the top ranking, holding the spot for 12 non-consecutive weeks before losing it later in the year to Henin-Hardenne. She is the first woman to achieve the dubious feat without winning a Grand Slam title.

Clijsters started 2004 by reaching her fourth career Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, where she lost once more to Henin-Hardenne.

In February 2005, after almost a year of inactivity caused by injuries, Clijsters made her return to the WTA tour by participating in her home country tournament at Antwerp, losing to Venus Williams in the quarter-final. She then completed a stunning comeback to the top echelon of women’s tennis when she won, as an unseeded entry, 14 straight matches and defeated five of the world’s top six players at the time.

Further cementing her comeback, Clijsters finally won a Grand Slam singles title at the US Open. It was her first victory after reaching four Grand Slam finals. Along the way, she defeated both 10th seed Venus Williams and top seed Maria Sharapova.
At the 2006 Australian Open, Clijsters made her way to the semifinals before falling to Amelie Mauresmo in the semis. Despite the loss, the rankings points she accumulated was enough for her to regain the world number one spot, starting March 30, a position she last held on November 9, 2003.

In the process, Clijsters became the first tennis player, man or woman, ever to rise from outside the Top 100 (No. 134) to No. 1 in less than year. This past May, Clijsters reached thr semifinals at the French Open before she lost to fellow Belgian, Henin-Hardenne in 6-3 6-2, on her 23rd birthday.

Clijsters is certainly cpable of winning this year’s Wimbledon – even if you’re still not familiar with who she is. Her opponents know her – quite well.

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