MELBOURNE, Australia - It was not the fairytale ending the Melbourne Park crowd wanted but when Kim Clijsters' backhand sailed wide of the tramlines on match point against Victoria Azarenka, the curtain fell for possibly the final time on one of tennis' great romances.
However, while Clijsters' love affair with the Australian Open finished with semifinal heartache, the Belgian is already looking ahead to the rest of 2012 and filling some of the few remaining gaps on her CV. One such gap is a Roland Garros singles title.
Clijsters has come close in Paris on several occasions - none more so than her 12-10 third set defeat to Jennifer Capriati in the 2001 final - and is eager to make a final assault on one of the few major trophies to elude her.
"? that's definitely been one of the frustrations that I think I've had over these last couple of years, or even since I've come back, is that I haven't really been able to give it a good shot at the French Open," Clijsters said.
Two years after her loss in the final to Capriati, Clijsters was runner-up in the French capital again, this time falling to compatriot Justine Henin. Since her comeback in 2009, though, injuries have scuppered any chance of going one better - a torn foot muscle ruled her out in 2010 and last year she lost in the second round after missing the entire clay court season with a twisted ankle.
These injuries have resulted in the four-time Grand Slam champion playing just four matches on clay in two years, a statistic she is out to change this spring. "It is a challenge. It's one of the goals that I have this season, is to give myself a really good preparation on the clay courts and try to be close to my best level when I get to the French Open."
Much of the talk surrounding Clijsters in the lead up to the Australian Open concerned her eventual retirement, and in the aftermath of the Azarenka defeat she was in philosophical mood about the prospect of ending her 15-year career.
"My life, when I go home, when I'll be home in Belgium, that's what my life will be like when I'm retired," she said. "I enjoy being at home. But I still enjoy playing tennis very much. I enjoy the challenge.
"It's good for me to have the balance and to have both. I'm lucky enough that I'm capable of being in this position where Jada and my husband, they're capable of traveling with me, because otherwise it would be too hard to do that. But I'm sure there's going to be a couple little things that we're not going to be too sad about that we won't miss with the family.
"But tennis will always be a great part of my life. It's given me so many great memories and emotional rollercoasters. I don't think you can experience that again in any other thing in life, maybe except giving birth!"
It will be a sad day when she does finally hang up her racquets for good, but, for now, the rollercoaster is still going and, if the previous 15 years are anything to go by, there are still a few more ups and down in store for Clijsters and her fans.