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Supermom Kim Clijsters has brought some much needed joy to her homeland after a dismal sporting summer for Belgium.
Clijsters' victory in the U.S. Open Final dominated morning news reports. “Kim Clijsters makes history at US Open” said the website of leading daily De Morgan. “The exploit of the year,” said Le Soir, another daily.
Clijsters beat Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3 in the final at Flushing Meadows to cap a remarkable comeback.
Two years after her previous U.S. Open win in 2005, Clijsters retired to start a family. She married U.S. basketball player Brian Lynch and in Feb. 2008 gave birth to a baby girl, Jada.
After playing in an exhibition game with fellow retirees, Andre Agassi, Tim Henman and Steffi Graff in May, Clijsters decided to play a few tournaments.
She quickly started to blow away some of the world’s top players. In the U.S. Open she beat both Venus and Serena Williams to become the first wildcard to reach the final, and then defeated Wozniacki to become the first mom to win a Grand Slam since Evone Goolagong Cawley in 1980.
Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy congratulated Clijsters on a “spectacular victory” assuring the tennis star that “the whole country was behind her.” Yanina Wickmayer, 19, who battled her way into the semifinal also did her homeland proud.
For the Belgians the success was much needed.
The country’s soccer team has had a disastrous few months. A 5-0 thrashing by Spain followed by defeat in Armenia means the Red Devils this month have no hope of reaching next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.
Compounding the soccer woes, one Belgium’s most promising young talents, Axel Witsel, was given an eight-match ban for a potentially career-ending tackle that shattered the leg of Polish international Marcin Wasilewski in a match between Belgium’s top two clubs.
Witsel, voted the most valuable player in Belgium’s top division last season, denies aiming to harm, but the tackle has cast a shadow over the start of the season. Wasilewski won’t play for at least a year.
Belgium came away with no medals in the World Athletics Championship in August, after securing gold and a silver at the Beijing Olympics a year ago.
Cycling idol Tom Boonen, a former world champion, has made headlines this year for his cocaine busts instead of his race wins, making no impact on the Tour de France.
After such flops, many Belgians are hoping Cljisters’ one-time teammate and rival Justine Henin, who retired last year, will be tempted join her on the comeback trail.