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Incredibly, she had played just two warm-up tournaments after coming out of retirement, and Jada’s unexpected appearance on court alongside her mother at the presentation ceremony brought the house down.

‘I was more proud of seeing Jada there than I was of winning,’ says Kim. No win, or trophy, can come even close.’ Life has been kind to Kim; and it has been devastatingly cruel, too.

In her time away from the sport – almost two and a half years – she had married her American boyfriend, Brian Lynch, a basketball player, and given birth to Jada.

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Kim and her younger sister, Elke, nursed him at a farmhouse Kim owns, close to her own home, until his death in January this year, aged just 52. It’s hard to explain; he may no longer be with us, but we still feel he’s a part of what we do.’ Kim explains what she means by telling me about something that happened at the US Open.

‘I was eight months pregnant when he rang to tell me he had cancer,’ says Kim. She had been growing increasingly nervous as her courtesy car driver took her from her Manhattan hotel to the Flushing Meadows tennis facility, across the East River in the borough of Queens, for her semifinal match with world number one Serena Williams.

‘When he told us that the doctors had no cure for his illness, it was such a confusing time for me. Kim had already beaten Venus Williams in the fourth round, but Serena was the defending champion and, through wild weather disrupting the programme, Kim had not played for four days.

I was carrying a new life inside me and I was also being confronted with death. He was given just three months to live, but he was determined to stay alive as long as he could to see his first grandchild. That was plenty of time for the match to play on her mind.

Kim Clijsters had been home from New York for just a few days when her 18-month-old daughter, Jada, slipped into the back garden without her noticing.

Only the sound of Jada’s happy gurgles outside the back door alerted Kim to her whereabouts. ”’As she speaks, I notice children’s books written in English and Flemish littering the dining room table, along with a new consignment of wrapped tennis shirts from her Italian sponsor.As her mother approached, Jada flashed an angelic smile and waved the dog food clutched in her tiny hands. Unwittingly, she has neatly presented me with the twin facets of her life: mother and world class tennis champion, ranked most definitely in that order.Kim, 26, is wearing jeans and her hair is still damp from the shower after a hard training session as she warmly welcomes me into her house in Bree, the Belgian town where she grew up as the eldest daughter of Leo Clijsters, an acclaimed international footballer.Upstairs, Jada is having her afternoon nap oblivious to her role in her mother’s story, and the fright and relief she caused her.When Kim won the US Open in September, she became the first mother to triumph at a major tennis championship since Evonne Goolagong was crowned Wimbledon champion 29 years ago.Motherhood has been good for other sportswomen: Paula Radcliffe won the New York marathon ten months after having her daughter, Isla, while Scottish golfer Catriona Matthew captured the women’s British Open championship this summer when her second daughter was just ten weeks old.


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