Tennis Star Kim Clijsters Announces Retirement

Kim Clijsters announced her immediate retirement from tennis on Sunday, cutting short plans to stop playing at the end of the season because of chronic injuries.

The fourth-ranked Belgian ended her 10-year career in a statement on her Web site.

"It has been more than fun, but the rackets are being hung up," she said. "To retire before the age of 24, it is very young — but it was so beautiful. I would have been able to continue for a few months and to take part in the four most lucrative tournaments [three Grand Slams and the Masters].

"Money is important, but not the most important thing in my life. Health and private happiness are so much more important."

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The 23-year-old Clijsters lost in straight sets to Ukrainian qualifier Julia Vakulenko in her final ever match Thursday, failing to defend her J&S Cup title in Warsaw, Poland.

The 2005 U.S. Open champion said her struggles with injury had taken its toll and that it was time to focus on other things, including her July 14 wedding to American basketball player Brian Lynch.

"It's tiring to get out of bed and to use an hour just to warm up stiff muscles in the morning," she said. The constant injuries and continual rehabilitation ... it makes it all even more difficult to go on."

A left wrist injury last year stopped Clijsters from defending her only Gland Slam title at Flushing Meadow and from playing in the Fed Cup final. She reached the 2007 Australian Open semifinals, but injured her hip. Earlier this month, Clijsters had complained of back pain after losing in Key Biscayne.

Clijsters won the 2002 and 2003 WTA Championships as part of her career 34 singles titles.

She was Belgium's first tennis player to reach No. 1, holding the top-ranked spot for 19 weeks in 2003.

But Clijsters was unlucky in Grand Slam finals — losing in 2001 and 2003 at the French Open, in 2003 at the U.S. Open, and in 2004 at the Australian Open.

"The most beautiful memories of my career?" She wrote on her Web site. "Many victories in tournaments, grand slams in singles and doubles as well as being world No. 1 in singles and doubles.

"It is time for a new life. Time for marriage. Time for children? Time also to relax and to play with my dogs. And especially to spend a lot of time with my family and friends."

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