(13 DECEMBER) For years there's been this joke, in Dutch, that each time Kim entered the Antwerp Sportpaleis the roof is blown off by the audience's cheers. This time as well, when Kim entered the court of the 'Kim's Thank You Games' at about 7.15pm for her last match the crowd went wild.
After warming up Kim and Venus were ready for 3 tie-break sets. Kim won the toss and started serving. She reeled in the first points of the match. At 30-0 a first rallye was decided in favour of the Belgian, after which she pressed on and won the first game, 1-0.
When finally halfway into the second game someone cheered Venus, the American was visibly pleased. With a bit of luck Venus won the second game. The third game already offered the level the audience wanted to see. Both players were well-matched, there were some rallies and dropshots. Kim won her second service game, after which DJ Regi took over.
However, in the fourth game there was no holding Venus and the American quickly levelled at 2-2. The fifth game did not take long either and at the next break Kim was leading 3-2. Breaks between games were brief and with pumping beats produced by Regi, the event started going really fast.
At a first break point in the fifth game, which Kim had managed after a near split, Venus equalled. At deuce, Kim opted for Venus in the receiver's choice and broke through Venus's service game: 4-2 after 17 minutes. When at 30-all in the seventh game, Kim reeled in her point, she produced a decided fist, visibly happy with the win. She powered on to 5-2.
In a rather straightforward game, Venus started her way back into the match at 5-3. Regi subsequently got the crowd going before Kim served it out to take the first set 6-3 after 26 minutes.
Venus started the second set with a winner on her service game, but her second point went too wide, as did her third. More unforced errors followed, but at 30-40 Kim sent the ball along the sideline just right, which prompted a thumbs up from Venus. Kim eventually won the first game, breaking Venus's serve. Hands clapped to the sound of 'Seven Nation Army'.
In Kim's first service game of the second set, Venus started playing more secure and the Belgian soon faced a 15-40 difference. After an unforced error by Kim, Venus equalled, 1-1. With a series of unforced errors, Venus won the third game, 2-1.
At 2-2 and 30-30, 45 minutes into the match, the crowd enjoyed some tense wide and open tennis with lots of volleys. Another point later the temperature started rising in the Antwerp Sportpaleis, especially among the players. Kim eventually won the fifth game and lead 3-2. The first Mexican wave started going around, with Venus and Kim joining. It became a true farewell wave.
After 55 minutes, Venus easily won her service game. At 4-3, it seemed the second set was about to mimick the first one. At 30-0 on her serve, Kim produced funny noises, nice dropshots - upon which Venus replied with more or less success - and timid smiles with part of the the audience: 5-3.
As the set came to a close, more and more photographers joined along the court. Clearly some more competition was left, but not for long. On a double fault, it was game, set and match for Kim: 6-3 6-3 after 62 minutes.
In an immediate response after the match Venus reiterated that it was great to be back. 'I've got so many great memories here. It's an honour to be back.' To which Kim replied 'Venus, it's been a pleasure to have you here tonight and a real honour to have been playing you in the last 15 years. You've been an inspiration, it's always been a pleasure playing against you.'
Kim then received a huge Babolat racket, after which the party was about to start.
Under loud tones produced by Regi, Kim left the Sportpaleis, her final act as a tennis player on a professional court, although she would be back for a doubles match alongside Amélie Mauresmo, against Venus Williams and Kirsten Flipkens. (Kim and Amélie lost 5-8.)
THANK YOU KIM!
(adapted from kimclijsters.com)