Kim Clijsters, one of the most popular and beloved women in the history of tennis, appears to have played the last singles match of her career.
And it came on the court — and in the city — where she enjoyed her greatest success.
Let the record reflect that Laura Robson of Great Britain handed the three-time U.S. Open champion her final singles loss, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), during the early evening in a second-round match Wednesday in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“Thank you first of all,” Clijsters told the crowd on-court after the loss. “One of my biggest dreams came true in 2005 winning here. And at the time I came back, I just was so inspired by the energy that was out on this court. And I played some of my best tennis here and some of my greatest matches [here]. So this completely feels like the perfect place to retire.”
At that point, a fan broke out with the chant, “One more year.”
Clijsters, 29, had won 22 straight matches in Flushing Meadows, with her last loss coming in the 2003 final to Belgian countrywoman Justine Henin.
Robson, an 18-year-old who was born in Australia and moved to England with her parents when she was six, was nine at that time.
“I was just trying to play as hard as I could because I knew if I didn’t, Kim would completely dominate,” Robson said. “I just had to work my butt off.”
She thanked Clijsters for being “such a good role model to me for so many years.”
Clijsters won the Open for the first time in 2005 but then retired and became the mother of her daughter, Jada Ellie, in 2008. Her husband is former Villanova basketball player Brian Lynch.
She returned to the tour in 2009, winning the U.S. Open in just her third tournament back, beating both Serena and Venus Williams en route to the crown. After defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the final, Clijsters brought Jada down on the court to help her celebrate.
Clijsters repeated again in 2010, but missed last year with an abdominal injury.
“Laura played extremely well today,” Clijsters said. “I fought. I gave it all and then it just wasn’t good enough at the end of the match. Again, since I retired the first time, it’s been a great adventure for my team and my family. And it’s been all worth it. But also I’m looking forward to the next part of my life coming up.”
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria for U.S. Open coverage all tournament long.