WIMBLEDON, England – Kim Clijsters walked off Court 3 at Wimbledon with a quick one-handed wave to the crowd after a match she never had a chance to win.
There was no grand farewell for Clijsters at the grass-court Grand Slam, just a humbling defeat and a fast exit.
The former top-ranked Belgian lost 6-1, 6-1 Monday to eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in the fourth round to mark the end of what she says is her final Wimbledon before retiring later this year.
While she'll be back at the All England Club in a month for the London Olympics, the loss means that the four-time Grand Slam champion will never get to lift perhaps the most coveted trophy in tennis.
"I won't be sorry about anything. I mean, I know that every time that I've played here I've given my best, and that's the only thing that I can try," Clijsters said. "Some days it's good, some days it's great, and some days it's not good enough. And that's something that I'll never regret. I'll never say that I didn't work hard enough or I didn't practice hard enough.
"So I don't think I'll feel sorry about anything when I leave."
She left with a whimper, though.
Her last match didn't come on Centre Court but on the much smaller Court 3, and her only way of saying goodbye was the curt wave she gave as she walked off to a loud round of applause.
There was little to indicate that this was the end of something big for Clijsters, and she said it didn't really enter her mind as the match came to a close.
"What I was thinking about was probably the match still," she said. "Wasn't so much about the last time. Not at all actually. I didn't really think about that. I just had the feeling that there was absolutely nothing I could have done today to have won that match. I just felt like my opponent was better on every level."
Kerber hit 19 winners to just five unforced errors, and never gave Clijsters a break point. Clijsters had to save a match point when serving at 5-0 just to win a game in the second set, before Kerber easily served it out.
"I know that actually (was) maybe her last Wimbledon, but I was going out there and know before the match that I need to play very good to beat her," Kerber said. "She's a legend also for me. ... So, yeah, it was nice to play against her, because I never played (her) before. I had the chance now at the last, maybe the last Wimbledon to play against her."
The 47th-ranked Clijsters came out of her first retirement in 2009 after a two-year break in tennis, a comeback that was spurred in part by an appearance at the All England Club. Clijsters was invited to play in an exhibition match that year along with Tim Henman, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf when Wimbledon organizers unveiled the new retractable roof over Centre Court.
Since her return, she has won two U.S. Open titles and one Australian Open, but she never managed to reach the final at Wimbledon in nine attempts. She reached the semis in 2003 and 2006.
One of her best memories from the All England Club is a loss: against Graf in 1999 in what proved to be the German great's last Wimbledon.
"Playing Steffi here was for me definitely one of my dreams come true as a young up and coming player," she said. "To be playing Steffi in her last Wimbledon was very, very special."
Kerber is already saying the same about Clijsters.