Kim Clijsters has always been recognized as one of the most gifted athletes in tennis, and it's no wonder, given that both her parents were sports stars in Belgium, her father in soccer and her mother in gymnastics. Her father's leg strength and her mother's flexibility are more than obvious watching Kim play, as she covers the court better than almost anyone and makes fans cringe by doing sliding full splits to stretch for the ball--even on hard courts.
Kim could have done well in almost any sport, but at 6, she chose tennis. By 11, she had won the Belgian Junior Championship, and by 14, she had extensive international junior experience. She turned pro in 1997, at age 14, and in 1998 won two ITF singles titles and three ITF doubles titles.
In 1999, Clijsters won her first WTA Tour singles title and made the fourth round at Wimbledon and the third round at the US Open. She won another WTA singles title in 2000, but didn't do quite as well at the Grand Slams, making only the first and second rounds. 2001 was much better, as Kim won three more WTA singles titles and made the final at Roland Garros, the quarterfinals at the US Open and Wimbledon, and the fourth round at the Australian Open. Kim finished 2001 ranked #5 in the world.
Kim's Grand Slam results dipped in 2002, with her highest round a semifinal at the Australian Open, but the rest of her year was her best yet, as she won four WTA singles titles and the year-end Tour Championships. She finished the year ranked #4.
Clijsters had a great 2003; she won nine WTA singles titles and made the finals at Roland Garros and the US Open and the semifinals at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. She also won seven doubles titles, including Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She held the #1 ranking for 12 weeks in the late summer and finished the year ranked #2. If Kim had any disappointment in 2003, it was her inconsistent play in her two Grand Slam finals, where her high counts of unforced errors were almost certainly due to nerves.