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Freeman Cebu Sports

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WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde - The Freeman

When a woman who has had enough leaves, she never returns. Either she drops the person, or the relationship. Or both. Almost always. Two years after winning her inaugural slam, Belgian sports icon Kim Clijsters left tennis to start a family. At a young age of 23. But her passion haunted her. After giving birth, she went back and won three more slams, a testament that motherhood does not weaken a woman. It strengthens her to a level unknown to men.

But Kim retired again two years after, only to return to competitive tennis shortly before the pandemic. But this time she had little success. A little over than her ideal weight, she lost to younger opponents in the earlier rounds of grand slams. Recently she announced her third, and presumably final retirement. At age 38. Not too old to play tennis. The Williams sisters are older but they are still around. Although not as dominant and triumphant.

Even her compatriot and rival Justine Henin retired early, after winning seven majors. But she couldn’t resist trying one more time, as she chose to chase the one that got away – the Wimbledon crown – the grandest of all grand slams. Too grand Marion Bartoli retired after winning one, her only one. Justine flirted with one more slam down under but succumbed to the then great Serena Williams. Then the career-ending injury that abruptly ended her comeback bid. The mind is willing but the body is welling.

Both Kim and Justine may not have retired under their terms, but they left footprints on three special places in tennis history, winning multiple slams, being ranked number one and inducted to the hall of fame. And of course the multi-million prize money and endorsement deals. Anna Kournikova never won a singles title, but laughed all the way to the bank with her exponential endorsement fees. She played on court but slayed off court. Who needs a title when you have the millions? Maria Sharapova had both, and more.

But while it took them a little while to retire, world number one Ashleigh Barty shocked Australia and the world when she retired from tennis shortly after ending her country’s 44-year singles title drought down under. Prior to gifting Australia with a singles title they so waited for so long, Ash smashed the mud and grass slams. It was only a matter of time before she satiates Australian hunger for homegrown dominance on home court. And she did, emphatically and empathically.  

Ash retired because she wanted to chase her other dreams in life. But one day her reality of being number one and winning slams will chase her. It will overtake her, not because she is slow, or she stopped to grow, but because it will make her rediscover her old, lost glow. Or glare. At the US Open – the one winnable crown missing in her slam collection.

PANDEMIC

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