(26 JAN.) It was a tough battle with ups and downs but Kim's last Australian Open has come to end earlier today as our No.1 Belgian lost her semifinal match to Victoria Azarenka 4-6 6-1 3-6.
There has been so much fairytale in Kim Clijsters's return to the sport, that you forget that sometimes things are just not meant to be.
Her win in New York three years ago, her title defence in New York two years ago, followed by her first title here in Melbourne last year... There have been some charmed times for the KimBack Kid.
Admittedly, there have also been a lot of not-so-charmed times. The plague of injuries that forced her to miss the French Open in 2010 and Wimbledon in 2011, right up to rolling her wobbly ankle again just a few days ago, it is testament to the Belgian's extraordinary perseverance that her second comeback has lasted as long as it has.
But the moment she let loose and saved four match points against Li Na in the 4th round, achieving the 'Kimpossible', as people put it, there was a whisper that perhaps destiny was knocking on the Kim trophy cabinet yet again. After all, what could be more perfect than a win for Aussie Kim on Australia Day to reach the Australian Open final in what is likely to be her last Australian Open?
On this occasion, the tennis loom didn't end up weaving that tale.
Whether it was the way she woke up in the morning or slept last night, or warmed up, or felt, or thought, Kim was not quite all there for the start of her semifinal against Victoria Azarenka.
'Overall it felt harder, even in the rallies, to just be a little bit more aggressive than your opponent. That obviously starts with the serve', she said. 'I felt like I had to serve well today because she was returning really well.'
Credit, of course, to the young Belarusian, who came roaring out of the blocks in her attempt to reach her first Grand Slam final. But something was not quite right with Kim's game. Shots she would have made, she missed.
Like a well-worked diesel engine, she spluttered into life in the second set, chuntering through for the loss of just one game as, like Yin and Yang, Azarenka went off the boil. Perhaps the impossible might still have been possible.
And then Azarenka grabbed the momentum back. But that pull that the defending champion still had something left to give to this Australian Open appeared again in the final set, Kim breaking back, not once, but twice.
'There were a few deciding moments where I think I maybe had a little bit of an advantage, in the third set, especially that first game where I had break point', she said. 'A few little things here and there that you can always think back and say "Maybe I should have done this or that at that certain times in the match."'
But then she dipped again. Skipping up to a backhand she would usually have buried into the back corner of the court, Clijsters buried it in the net instead.
'It's unfortunate when you get so close', she said. 'I know I'm capable of beating all these girls, but it's whoever's better on the day wins and gets to go through. That's something that is disappointing.'
Saving one match point, but not the three she needed to, her last backhand ballooned well wide, possibly the last shot she'll play at Rod Laver Arena.
Will she be back? Sadly, it's unlikely. But in a very Kim way, she's still leaving the door the tiniest bit open, saying she had "no idea" where she'd be watching Australian Open 2013.
'You don't think about it', she said, when asked whether the finality of the situation had hit home. 'The loss is too fresh I think to think about something else. So I'm sure that will sink in in the next couple of days.'
Ultimately, let the disappointment of the semifinal not take anything away from Clijsters's achievements over the past two weeks. A Grand Slam semifinal, with almost no form, and an ankle so bad that if this event was beginning next week, she wouldn't play. Thus she still achieved what for many would have been impossible.
'I could have been home already two days ago', she pointed out. 'I feel that I really gave it 200%, so in that way I really don't feel like I could have done anything differently these last two weeks. I know that things weren't always the way that I would have liked them to go, but I tried', she continued. 'In whatever situation I was in, I was able to just stick with it, fight through it. Played some tough matches, played some good tennis. At the end that's what it's all about. I'll go home and I'll know that I gave it my all.'
She will be missed.
(adapted from www.australianopen.com)