New York: Kim Clijsters stunned Victoria Duval by requesting a keepsake photograph with the American teenager after their opening round match at the US Open.
Clijsters, who will retire at the end of the tournament, defeated Duval 6-3, 6-1 on Monday in the first night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium before pulling out her camera in the locker room at Flushing Meadows.
“She asked me for a photograph for her memories — but I’m the one who should have been asking for a photo for my memories,” Duval said.
“She’s been my idol. I felt like the luckiest 16-year-old ever. I was really nervous, I was freaking out. I was so excited I can’t even explain.”
Clijsters lost three consecutive games in a nervous first set but denied she was spooked by playing what could have been the last singles match of her career.
“I didn’t really think about that,” she said. “I was just excited to be out there and have the opportunity to play in this kind of condition, prime time.
“A night match, it’s always a very special occasion. The energy when you step out on the court, the stadium was almost full - so it was a lot of fun to go out there.”
Clijsters said the tender years of her opponent reminded her of playing Steffi Graf at Wimbledon as a 16-year-old.
“It’s been a very long time,” Clijsters said. “I obviously wasn’t in that position where I played my first-ever match on tour in such a big stadium.
“I played Steffi at Wimbledon and she was my big idol so it kind of takes you back through a lot of emotions and memories.
“We spoke a bit after the match. She was really sweet. She’s a very nice girl.”
Clijsters revealed a deep and meaningful discussion with a fellow Olympian after she lost to Maria Sharapova in London.
“I actually had an eye-opening experience after the Olympics,” she said. “I went back to the athletes village. I was in the gym and I was just doing my exercises. There was a guy in there, a German guy, who did judo.
“He was one of the favourites to win a medal and he actually lost first round. He said he’s put everything in his life aside for that moment and then he loses first round. He was at the Olympics for two minutes.
“I’m doing my exercise at the same time thinking. ‘Wow, we are lucky.’ Two weeks ago we had Wimbledon. We’re at the Olympics. Within another three, four weeks we’re playing at the US Open.
“It gave me a feeling of how lucky we are in our sport not to be pressured. Not to have to focus on one event every four years. That really got to me, actually.”
Clijsters described Duval as a bright prospect whose progress she would follow closely in the years to come.
The American wildcard was the youngest player in the draw and will contest the junior singles next week.
Clijsters, 29, is retiring after the US Open to concentrate on family life. She has also entered the doubles and mixed doubles.
The 23rd seed is in the toughest half of the draw with defending champion Sam Stosur, third seed Sharapova, former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and China’s ninth seed Li Na.