ANTWERP, Belgium - With one last burst of energy - and some of her trademark hardcourt slides - Kim Clijsters gave her fans one last night of tennis on Wednesday, at Kim's Thank You Games.
Held at the Antwerp Sportpaleis, the exhibition event - which is usually titled the Diamond Games, but this year was renamed in Clijsters' honor - was in its fourth year, and the Belgian fans were treated to a match-up between two WTA legends and former World No.1s - Clijsters and Venus Williams.
While in her playing days Clijsters not only led the head-to-head series with Williams, 7-6, but she won their last five meetings, including all three meetings in the second phase of her career, at the US Open in 2009, then Miami and the US Open again in 2010. And that head-to-head momentum seemed to carry into the match Wednesday night as the Belgian was on her game, beating the American, 63 63.
"It's great to be back here in Antwerp," Williams, a two-time champion in Antwerp when it was a WTA event, said after the match. "I've got so many great memories here, and it's an honor to be back again."
"Venus, it's been a pleasure to have you here tonight," Clijsters, who was also a champion at the WTA event in Antwerp, replied. "It has been a real honor to have been playing you over the last 15 years. You've been an inspiration to me and it has always been a pleasure playing against you."
That wasn't all, though - a doubles match followed, with Williams getting her revenge alongside Kirsten Flipkens, prevailing in a pro set against Clijsters and another former World No.1, Amélie Mauresmo, 8-5.
Clijsters also held a press conference Wednesday and explained why she wanted to come back for one more go in front of her Belgian home fans. "I said goodbye to the world of tennis in New York, but I wanted to have another farewell in Antwerp, before a home audience," the four-time Grand Slam champion said. "I've lived through some of the most amazing moments of my life here."
Williams only had kind words about her contemporary. "She's one of those players who does everything well," the seven-time Grand Slam champion commented. "Her movement was amazing, she was very consistent, and she added that aggressive power - some players have one or two of those qualities, but those who have all three of them are a lethal combination. It made her so dangerous."
Williams also took time to reflect on some of their past matches. "We've played a lot of matches - I think one of the most important matches for her was at the 2005 US Open, when I was leading and she came back and won, then won her first Grand Slam title there. We had a lot of tough matches. And we played another two times at the US Open. I didn't win those; for her it was a great story."
Among those in the audience for the exhibition was another Belgian former World No.1, Justine Henin.
Clijsters' first career was already incredible, her highlights being her first Grand Slam title at the 2005 US Open and spending 19 weeks at No.1; but her second career was even more incredible, winning three more Grand Slam titles at the 2009 US Open, 2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open, and spending one more week at No.1 - the first mother ever to rank No.1 since the rankings began in 1975.
The Belgian was particularly lethal at the US Open, putting together a 38-6 career record there, and she had the second-best women's winning percentage ever on Arthur Ashe Stadium with .857 (the best women's winning percentage on Arthur Ashe Stadium belongs to Serena Williams with .867).