Success-starved Belgium hails win by "Mama" Clijsters | sports | Hindustan Times
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Success-starved Belgium hails win by "Mama" Clijsters

sports Updated: Sep 14, 2009 23:21 IST
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Belgium hailed Kim Clijsters's comeback U.S. Open victory and praised the player for ending the nation's barren sporting run.

"Tennis Mama Kim Clijsters writes history," said the website of top-selling newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws after Clijsters's title at the Grand Slam event.

Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy congratulated Clijsters for her "spectacular victory". He also paid tribute to little-known Belgian Yanina Wickmayer who reached the semi-finals.

Clijsters, who returned to top-flight tennis last month after two years out, beat Dane Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3 in Sunday's final in New York.

Her small country of 10 million people thought it had bid farewell to Clijsters as a tennis player two years ago when she retired to marry and give birth to a daughter.

Seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin followed her into retirement last year, as did Olympic high jump champion Tia Hellebaut and European 100 metres champion Kim Gevaert.

The Belgian soccer team, once regulars at World Cups, saw their already thin hopes of qualifying for South Africa in 2010 crumble last week with a humiliating loss to Armenia, prompting the exit of the coach.

Former world champion cyclist Tom Boonen tested positive for cocaine in April and made little impact in this year's Tour de France.

Clijsters's win has cheered up the nation, however, and the player is expected to be greeted by some 10,000 fans in her hometown of Bree on Wednesday.

"She is the most complete player on the circuit," her former coach Carl Maes told Het Laatste Nieuws. "She was that along with Justine Henin and she has taken that place back. The 'part-timers' Venus and Serena play more power tennis, but not as all-round as Clijsters."

"There have been a lot of changes at the top of women's tennis in the last three years. No one has the domination of Kim and Justine... The current generation does not have the same mental power."

Speculation has been growing that Henin could also be tempted back. She has softened her stance about a return from a firm 'no' and will play an exhibition tournament in December.