Preparing for what she knew would be her last professional tennis tournament, Kim Clijsters -- four-time Grand Slam title winner; mother of 4-year-old Jada -- devoted her effort and energy to the U.S. Open.
Family time needed to wait a tad longer.
''She was like, `Why don't you come with us to go out, go for a walk?' I'm like, `Mama's almost done,''' Clijsters said Wednesday after her singles career ended where she wanted it to, just not the way she hoped. ''So, yeah, I think she's going to be excited to kind of have her mom around more, on a more regular kind of basis.''
Little Jada's gain is the tennis tour's loss.
Clijsters lost 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) to 18-year-old Laura Robson of Britain in the second round of the U.S. Open, and will head into retirement after she finishes playing doubles at Flushing Meadows.
''It's been an incredible journey, and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis. As a little girl, I got Christmas rackets under the tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, and I would want to wear them to bed, I was so excited,'' Clijsters said. ''So for me to have been able to have been a part of women's tennis, and on top of women's tennis for so many years -- you don't think about it when you're in it; you're kind of on automatic pilot. ... Now that I think about it, it's been a crazy rollercoaster at times, as well.''
She walked away from the sport once before, in May 2007, then returned after a hiatus of two-plus years. Now 29, the Belgian insisted this season that she means it this time, and decided the U.S. Open, and its hard courts that she conquered on the way to three championships, would be her final tournament.
''It's the place that has inspired me so much to do well and to do great things. It's hard to explain sometimes why,'' Clijsters said in an on-court interview, her face flushed and her eyes welling with tears.