NEW YORK - Preparing for what she knew would be her last professional tennis tournament, Kim Clijsters - four-time Grand Slam title winner; mother of 4-year-old Jada - devoted her effort and energy to the U.S. Open.
Family time needed to wait a tad longer.
"She was like, 'Why don't you come with us to go out, go for a walk?' I'm like, 'Mama's almost done,'" Clijsters said Wednesday after her singles career ended where she wanted it to, just not the way she had hoped. "So, yeah, I think she's going to be excited to kind of have her mom around more."
Little Jada's gain is the tennis tour's loss.
Clijsters lost 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) to 18-year-old Laura Robson of Britain in the second round of the U.S. Open and will head into retirement after she finishes playing doubles at Flushing Meadows.
"It's been an incredible journey, and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis. As a little girl, I got Christmas rackets under the tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, and I would want to wear them to bed, I was so excited," Clijsters said. "So for me to have been able to have been a part of women's tennis, and on top of women's tennis for so many years - you don't think about it when you're in it; you're kind of on automatic pilot."
She walked away from the sport once before, in May 2007, then returned after a hiatus of two-plus years. Now 29, the Belgian insisted this season that she means it this time, and she decided the U.S. Open - and its hard courts that she conquered on the way to three championships - would be her final tournament.
"It's the place that has inspired me so much to do well and to do great things," Clijsters said in an on-court interview, her face flushed and her eyes welling with tears.
"This completely feels like the perfect place to retire," Clijsters told the spectators at Arthur Ashe Stadium, many of whom rose to shower her with a standing ovation. "I just wish it wasn't today."
The loss Wednesday ended Clijsters' 22-match winning streak in New York, encompassing titles in 2005, 2009 and 2010, plus Monday's first-round victory.
She missed the hard-court major in 2004, 2006-08 and last year, thanks to a combination of injuries and the time she took off while starting a family. Clijsters was married in 2007, and Jada was born in February 2008. By August 2009, Clijsters was back on tour.
"Since I retired the first time, it's been a great adventure for my team and my family," said Clijsters, who was 28-0 against players ranked outside the top 10 at the U.S. Open before Wednesday. "It's all been worth it. But I do look forward to the next part of my life coming up."
The highest-ranked American man, John Isner, got past an argumentative Xavier Malisse 6-3, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (9) in the first round.
"I know in the nitty-gritty times of a match, I always have that confidence and all those wins in my back pocket," said Isner, who is 37-13 in tiebreakers this season.
The 6-foot-9-inch Isner hit 20 aces and ended things with a service winner on his third match point. That came after Malisse pushed an easy backhand volley into the net, then grabbed the ball and shoved it in his mouth and chomped on it as though it were an apple.
The 57th-ranked Malisse, a 2002 Wimbledon semifinalist, was louder and angrier during a few exchanges with the chair umpire and members of the crowd.
"Half of the crowd doesn't understand what's going on," Malisse said. "They yell. We're in New York. So you're going to get more yells. That's fine by me … (but) I'm going to say something back."
• What: U.S. Open second-round matches
• When: 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• TV: ESPN2