Mum Clijsters finds right balance

Mum Clijsters finds right balance
By Reuters

10/03/2011 at 10:05Updated 10/03/2011 at 10:09

A decade after reaching the final at Indian Wells for the first time, Kim Clijsters is playing the best tennis of her career with motherhood the most significant change in her lifestyle.

Two years ago, the Belgian set her sights on maintaining the best possible balance between marriage, motherhood and life on the WTA Tour - and so far she seems to have perfected that tricky art.

Clijsters has won three of her four grand slam singles titles since the birth of her daughter Jada just over three years ago, most recently at the Australian Open in January.

"I played my best tennis there when it was needed," the 27-year-old said at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

"The final probably summed up how my whole tournament went," Clijsters said, referring to her 3-6 6-3 6-3 victory over China's Li Na. "When I started, I felt I was hitting good but I wasn't good enough because Li Na was always one step ahead and was just doing everything a little bit better.

"Luckily I was able to find some of my best tennis at the most important stages in that second set when I was able to break her rhythm a little bit and kind of maybe get in her head as well."

Clijsters, who retained her US Open title in September, has become something of a torchbearer for working mothers in tennis, a role which she relishes.

"To me, it's really important to have the time at home because otherwise I'm going to go to tournaments and I'm not going to want to be there," the world number two said.

"I want to be a housewife and take care of my husband and Jada, that's really important to me."

The Clijsters family have already made fun a top priority at Indian Wells where Jada has enjoyed the water slide in their hotel swimming pool as well as the 'living desert' zoo in nearby Palm Desert.

"We have had a great time doing those kinds of things," Clijsters said. "We have also taken lots of walks with Jada."

Clijsters smiled as she reflected on the biggest change in her life since she reached the final of the Indian Wells WTA tournament for the first time in 2001.

"Obviously I wasn't thinking then about what activities were good for kids," she recalled. "At that time, it was playing, eating, massage and then sleeping - that was all.

"Once in a while I was able to go to a restaurant but even then, it was probably more room service than anything else."

Clijsters plans to continue competing for a maximum two years following her remarkable run of success since returning to the tour in 2009 from a lengthy maternity break.

Seeded second at Indian Wells where she won the title in 2003 and 2005, the Belgian will meet Russian Alla Kudryavtseva in the second round on Friday.