KIRSTEN Flipkens almost quit tennis last year but was glad she stuck with it after beating former champion Petra Kvitova to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals.
Flipkens, who started the tournament as a 325-1 long shot for the title, beat 2011 champion Kvitova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 under the Centre Court roof to set up today’s semi-final clash against France’s Marion Bartoli.
Rewind 14 months and the wide smile that stretched across Flipkens’ face after her quarter-final was nowhere to be seen.
Doctors discovered four blood clots in her calves because of a hitherto unknown genetic disorder. Flipkens was told that, if she boarded a plane to Japan, where she was due to play in the Fed Cup, her legs would turn blue due to thrombosis. After two months off court, Flipkens took a while to regain her form, but she looked like a potential champion when she came back from a set down to defeat Kvitova.
The Belgian summed up her turnaround in fortunes when she said: “Last year I didn’t get into the qualifying of Wimbledon. I was ranked 262, today I’m a semi-finalist in a grand slam. It’s more than a dream.”
Flipkens still has to take blood-thinning tablets before she flies and must also wear rather unflattering compression socks in order to stop more clots forming.
But she thinks the setback, which came a few years after she was warned that her playing days could be over because of a back injury, helped her career, rather than hindered it, even though the injury meant she lost her funding from the Belgian tennis federation.
“Maybe I started to know what’s important in life after that,” said the 20th seed, who has won just one tour title in her career. “I think winning or losing a tennis match doesn’t make a big difference. I just started to see things in perspective.
Bartoli, the 15th seed, was a surprise finalist in 2007, eventually losing to Venus Williams, but has had a poor year until now.
Flipkens said: “I’ve never played Marion. I didn’t really watch her matches, I was just focusing on myself.
“I only know she has a two-handed forehand and backhand. That’s about it.”