LONDON: One lingering regret haunted Kim Clijsters during a 2-1/2 year maternity break from the women`s tennis circuit.
Although she has long been in love with Wimbledon`s lush green courts, the 27-year-old Belgian had never gone further than the semi-finals in seven appearances.
Clijsters, who won the 2009 U.S. Open only a month into her comeback, was offered a wildcard by the All England club last year after taking part in an exhibition to unveil the sliding roof over Centre Court.
"It was so tempting, because it is so lovely, I love Wimbledon, I just love the whole atmosphere," Clijsters, who is seeded eighth for her first Wimbledon appearance in four years, told Reuters.
"But it was a smart decision not to play it, I feel I`m a better player obviously now then I was a year ago."
Should Clijsters realise her Wimbledon dream, fans will be greeted by the unusual sight of a curly-haired toddler running amok on the hallowed Centre Court turf.
Clijsters`s two-year-old daughter Jada stole the show at Flushing Meadows last September when she scurried around Arthur Ashe stadium as her mother celebrated winning the U.S. Open.
Asked if she would allow Jada to replicate the feat at the All England Club, the Belgian exclaimed: "Yes why not! We will see how it fits in with the schedule and if it fits with her nap time and everything...she will definitely be running around."
Quite what the traditionalists at Wimbledon will make of a child running around on the most famous grass court in the world has yet to be seen. But Clijsters is determined to ensure that her daughter is not locked away while she goes around doing her "day job".
"She will definitely be running around and yelling loudly `mummy, daddy` in the players` lounge and maybe in the players` box, maybe a bit too loud, but hopefully she can go out and watch a little bit of tennis," Clijsters said in an interview arranged by the WTA Tour`s sponsor Sony Ericsson.
During the past 12 months she had endured both the highs and lows of being a travelling professional.
She was hailed by the sporting world when she became the first mother to win a grand slam title in almost three decades in New York.
But this year, she tore a muscle in her left foot while representing Belgium against Estonia in the Fed Cup which forced her to miss the French Open.
"It was hard, I didn`t think when the injury happened (that I would have to miss it)," said Clijsters, who appeared to be back to full fitness as she knocked back balls during a training session.
"I always thought that I would make it but when it finally hit me that I wasn`t going to make it, it was very hard.
"I went to watch one of my friends, Kirsten Flipkens, play and being in the whole environment...it was hard to not be there, but it made me work harder to be ready for Wimbledon."
Always a popular figure on the tour and mobbed for autographs wherever she goes, the bubbly Belgian is determined to make up for lost time and prolong her Wimbledon adventure for as long as possible.
With that in mind, she has hooked up with childhood friend Xavier Malisse to also play mixed doubles for the first time at any slam since 2005.
"We went to school together when we were younger. We both said, `look we are getting a little bit older and who knows how many more Wimbledon`s we have ahead of us` so we were just really excited," said Clijsters.
"He`s a good friend of mine and it`s just going to be fun playing against the guys...it`s a good situation to have a little bit fun."
With Jada in tow wherever she goes, `fun` seems to be the buzz word in the Clijsters camp these days.
During her off-days at the U.S. Open, Clijsters took Jada horse riding and to trips to Central Park.
Over the next fortnight, British fans could spot the twice U.S. Open champion taking in the sights at London Zoo or having a run around Hyde Park.
On court, though, it will be business as usual as her coach Wim Fissette knows only too well. He could only squirm and watch as Clijsters gleefully chopped off his wavy locks after a bet at Flushing Meadows.
"We will probably have one (a bet but) probably no more shaving of the head unless they tell me to shave mine, but I don`t think that will be the case," said a grinning Clijsters before wandering off to attend to her daughter.
BDST: 1138hrs, June 18, 2010