2020欧洲杯最新战况A hard court is a flat slab of concrete or asphalt covered with a thin layer of rubber and topped with acrylic paint mixed with grit. Unlike grass, which is slick, and clay, which is loose, hard courts have traction. They are predictable. On hard courts, players plant their feet. Or they did, until Kim Clijsters came along. Clijsters, who turned pro in 1997, would sprint for a ball in the corner, extend her leading leg as she began her backswing, and then slide. Her trailing leg would extend in the other direction, bringing her into a deep, sliding split. As she swept her right arm forward to make contact with the ball, her racquet following a simple, efficient path, her left hand would drop for balance. And then, after the shot, she would recover like a cat, using her tremendous strength and flexibility to pull her feet beneath her and accelerate toward the center of the court in one quick motion. Other players slide on hard courts now, but she was the first, and it astonished everyone.

2020欧洲杯最新战况Last fall, Clijsters, who has retired from the game twice, announced that she would be coming out of retirement for the second time. When I heard the news, I went online and watched videos of her sliding on hard courts, over and over. in San Diego, in 2006, playing Maria Sharapova, sliding past the doubles alley to retrieve a hard shot. in New York, in 2010, against Petra Kvitová, sliding to stab a forehand. in a studio that year, looking leonine and strong, her blond ringlets loose, racquet in hand, sliding in slow motion.

2020欧洲杯最新战况And then, on Monday, there she was in Dubai, playing the first match of her second comeback, down a set and a break to Garbiñe Muguruza, at the Dubai Tennis Championships, sprinting to her right to reach a sharply hit backhand down the line and sliding into a straddle as she scythed a forehand recovery shot. She had not played a match in nearly eight years. She is thirty-six years old now and has three children. She also has four Grand Slam singles titles, plus two more in doubles. She won the last of these at the U.S. Open in 2010, during her first comeback, after the death of her father and the birth of her first daughter. That tournament was the first time I wrote about tennis, and Clijsters’s sliding was one of the reasons that I wanted to try. I felt an impulse to describe it, to articulate the elegance and economy and preposterous athleticism of her movement, as a way of re-creating it in my mind. I also had a sense that sliding on a surface meant to grip one’s feet was suggestive of something larger, the tension between ease and difficulty, smoothness and grit. Clijsters embodied some of the reasons I was drawn to tennis: the effects of pressure, the interplay of skill and style, the parallel dramas of geometry and personality. She was both intensely competitive and famously compassionate. I was suspicious of a desire to dominate even as I was drawn to athletes who felt it fiercely, as the successful ones nearly always do.

“At the end of the day, when you go home, the trophies are not talking to you,” she said after her first U.S. Open victory, in 2005. “They’re not going to love you,” she went on. “I want the people I love with me.” She retired in 2007. But, clearly, she wanted the trophies, too, because she came back for them. And now she is back again, but, I suspect, for something else.

2020欧洲杯最新战况Clijsters’s first retirement was preceded by a string of injuries—hip problems and back pain, a bad ankle and a torn wrist tendon, surgery for a cyst—and, prior to her second retirement, in 2012, her body had begun to break down again, and with it some of her will. She never left the game entirely: she started a tennis academy, travelled to tournaments, did a little commentating, played in exhibitions with other legends. But her three children and her husband, Brian Lynch, an American basketball coach and a former professional player, became her focus. She had pigs and chickens, too; she called it “a quiet life.” Then, nearly a year ago, she started training with the idea of returning to the tour. “It was a feeling that I had inside, a feeling that I had inside for a little while,” before the start of Dubai. “Once in a while that feeling would go away when I was home with the kids. A couple times it would come back. It got stronger and stronger.”

There would be little pressure: she waited for six months to announce her comeback, training and reserving the right to pull the plug—while also arranging for a film crew to follow her as she trained, for a documentary. It was for posterity, she later said, though presumably it was also a way to control the narrative of her career, in the manner of modern celebrities. It may also have represented a measure of accountability. She targeted the start of the year for her return. Her kids are all in school now, and she had more time. As a former No. 1 player, she had access to unlimited wild cards into major tournaments. She could pick and choose her spots.

2020欧洲杯最新战况Her comeback was announced with a stylishly produced video that was posted online. “What do I really want from life?” Clijsters says in a voice-over. On the screen, she takes a deep breath, her eyes closed. She is wearing a sunny yellow blouse, her soft curls pinned back from her face. A plaintive piano chord sounds, and she opens her eyes. “For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time mum, and I love it. I really, really do,” the voice-over continues. “But I also love being a professional tennis player. Honestly, I miss that feeling. So what if I tried to do both?”

That is the dream, of course, of many ambitious people who are also doting parents: to do everything on one’s own terms. Clijsters has money, a supportive spouse, and, living in Belgium, access to universal day care. But even someone with all of those advantages can find it hard. Children are both sources of incommensurable joy and inefficient engines of need; careers, particularly athletic careers, can also be capricious and make uncompromising demands. Clijsters missed her initial target, the Australian Open, after hurting her knee playing paddle ball. During that tournament, an old clip of her showing Sofia Kenin, the tournament’s eventual champion, around the grounds of the Miami Open, went viral. In it, Clijsters was a few months away from winning her first Grand Slam title. Kenin was six years old.

After her comeback announcement, Clijsters did an interview with . “With the three kids, I would sometimes just finish a little bit of oatmeal that Jada left in her bowl, or the kids left fruit out on the table that they didn’t eat,” she told the host, Courtney Nguyen. “That was my breakfast a lot of times, because we were rushing to school, or I was being late to day care.” In those terms, the ambition became less grand. Training and competing became a way of taking care of herself, she said.

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Before Clijsters’s first-round match against Muguruza, it was hard to know what to expect. Muguruza was the other finalist, along with Kenin, in Melbourne last month; she is a former champion of both Wimbledon and the French Open. Her flat groundstrokes and aggressive serve can be volatile, but, when she is on, she is one of the best in the world. Clijsters was, by her own admission, not as fit as she once was, and there was no telling how she would respond, this time, to the physical, emotional, and mental pressure of a high-stakes match.

2020欧洲杯最新战况But, from the start, Clijsters’s groundstrokes were as pure as a tuning fork. Muguruza was the more aggressive player, but Clijsters kept her balance, and her timing and precise footwork allowed her to handle shots on the run and even off her back foot. She struggled to reach some shots on the stretch, and some of her errors were unusually wild. Her serve was particularly nervy—she finished with ten double faults. That contributed to a rough start: she dropped the first set and then went down a double break in the second, three games to none. But she was competitive even in most of the games she lost. She started to find angles, constructing points and concealing her intentions. Sweat darkened large patches of her blue shirt. She finally broke Muguruza, finishing with a thunderous forehand winner, to make it 3–1, and the match shifted. Her game lifted, and she drew even. Her ball striking was a thing to behold.

2020欧洲杯最新战况Muguruza took the second set in a tight tiebreaker, and with it the match. But it did not feel like a loss for Clijsters—or, rather, the loss felt beside the point. “I have expectations,” she had said before the start of the tournament. “They’re not result-related or ranking-related—they’re more individually for myself. It’s getting a feeling of how I want to play out there.” I don’t know if she got that feeling on Monday, but, watching her, I felt something unexpected. I had wondered, a little skeptically, why she was coming back—what her motivations were, what it said about this moment in sports and celebrity and “having it all.” I wondered, too, how this reaction reflected my own ambitions as a mother and as a writer. But I forgot all that on Monday, when I saw Clijsters striking the ball again with such force. She seemed so fully herself. When Clijsters was asked to explain her comeback, last fall, she said, “I talked to my husband. He was, like, ‘Why not? Stop worrying about why, and ask yourself, “Why not?” ’ He made a very good point.”