On Day 3 of the 2012 US Open, I got to the grounds early to get a good seat for a particular match, and my preparation paid off as I triumphantly took my seat along the baseline. But, in retrospect, it wasn't my seat I was grateful for, it was the fact that I happened to be sitting across from the court that Kim Clijsters was on, preparing for her match against Laura Robson later that day in Ashe.
Because it was so early, no one had noticed that the 3 time US Open Champion was practicing, so I slid from my precious seat (my friend held it for me of course) and went to take pictures as she pounded forehands with ease. If at that time I would have known that this would be the last Clijsters' practice session I would witness, I would have taken more pictures; I probably would have also given up my precious baseline seat just to simply watch her hit the ball, but hindsight is always 20/20, and so after about 10 minutes of watching I went to back to the match.
Around the time the match was finished I checked the scores and saw that Kim was down a set. I quickly got food and went to the big screen to watch, a precautionary move at the time (I really didn't think she would lose) and I found I wasn't alone as many fans gathered at the fountain to see how this would unfold. We all cheered and groaned together, trying to will Kim on to take it to a 3rd set, but it wasn't meant to be. We watched her on-court interview in silence, taking in every detail, and although Kim didn't cry, there were many wet eyes in the crowd.
As I was leaving the grounds, and reflecting on how lucky I had been to see her practice that morning, I saw the man whose task it is to dangle dangerously high on a ladder and update the draw as the day's matches were completed. I watched him with a heavy heart place Robson's name in the 3rd round.
I wasn't able to see her double or mixed doubles matches, but fortunately my friend was there to snap these pictures of Kim with her partner Bob Bryan, and it's clear to see that Kimmy, as we fans affectionately call her, was at peace with her decision and just enjoying the moment.
Even though she won't be playing professional matches here anymore, she has left an indelible mark in New York. Her legacy, ever-present, as she clutches her fist alongside other past Champions.
After her singles match, this tribute to Kim quickly popped up on the big screen, and I took a picture with my phone to be able to share it with you.
Thank You Kim! You will be missed.