London: Kim Clijsters, who once feared she would never feature in an Olympics, admitted she’d caught Games fever after romping to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Italy’s Roberta Vinci at Wimbledon on Saturday.
Clijsters was in retirement during the last Olympics in 2008, but the former world number one has now experienced the Games before quitting for the second and last time after next month’s US Open.
The 29-year-old was thrashed by Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon fourth round earlier this month, but she looked revitalised by the Olympic experience on her return to the All England Club.
Clijsters, a three-time US Open winner, brushed aside world number 27 Vinci in just 61 minutes to secure a clash against Australian fifth seed Sam Stosur or Carla Navarro Suarez of Spain.
After finally ending her long wait to taste Olympic life, Clijsters revealed she has already fallen in love with the event.
“It’s like a virus, it spreads,” she said. “When you see all the other athletes from your country and the people who follow it, it’s hard not to get into it.”
“The Olympic sport in general is so unique, and you can hear that when someone like Roger (Federer) talks about it.
“He has won so many Grand Slams but he wants a gold medal in the singles because he hasn’t won that.”
Just making it to the Olympics is something of a triumph for Clijsters after her struggles with injury over the last 18 months and she believes that adds an extra feelgood factor to her experience in London.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m at the Olympics because there were moments in the last year and a half where I definitely thought about retiring and not even getting to the Olympics,” she said.
“Knowing that this is my second to last tournament, it is special. So many things are already different during the Olympics.
“I’m happy that, although I’ve been on tour for almost 15 years, that I am still finding these new situations.”
Clijsters is rapidly winding down her illustrious career, but the prospect of adding an Olympic medal to her CV has fuelled her competitive fire and she was delighted to get off to a flying start against Vinci.
“I still feel that whenever I step out on court and I feel good physically, if I play good tennis, I can beat a lot of good players out there,” Clijsters said.
“With that attitude, I’ll go until I play my last match. That’s a good attitude. It’s something that I need to have.
“I’m very happy with how I was feeling and I played good, solid tennis. I just had to be very focused.
“My tactical plan was to try not to let her get into the match where she can play with the opponent. She moves them around and it was up to me to stay on top of my baseline and not give her the opportunity to do that.”