When Kirsten Flipkens decided to call time after nearly two decades on tour, there was no other place but Wimbledon where the Belgian could bid farewell.

“Let's enjoy the last couple of weeks to the fullest, and slice & dice just a few more times..” she wrote to conclude her Instagram announcement.

Indeed, Flipkens had, of late, been known for her eye-catching trick shots, but it was nine years ago that she showed all her mettle through six start-to-finish matches at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships to reach her first and only Grand Slam singles semifinal.

“It's a dream—more than a dream—coming true,” she said after outlasting former champion Petra Kvitova in three physical sets. “There's no words.”

And yet, there was plenty to say about how Flipkens reached her personal pinnacle. A year prior, her career had reached its nadir—falling to No. 262 after undergoing surgery on her wrist. But Flipkens was used to adversity.


“I think I've been through a lot of ups and downs throughout my career,” she explained at the time. “I've had so many injuries. Even after the juniors: I was a world champion junior. The year after I had a really bad back injury. All doctors said my career would have been over normally.”

In overdrive looking to rebuild her ranking, she came home from a tournament in Thailand feeling extreme pain in her legs. Two days before she was scheduled to board another flight to Japan, Flipkens was informed she’d developed blood clots.

“The doctor told me: ‘if you step on the plane, you will probably come out of it blue.’”

More adversity came when, just weeks later, the Belgian Tennis Association cut her funding, giving the former heir presumptive of countrywomen Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin new motivation to become better than ever.

“I'm just the kind of person that doesn't like to break, and I keep on fighting back every time.”

I'm just the kind of person that doesn't like to break, and I keep on fighting back every time. Kirsten Flipkens

Some solid WTA results and coaching assistance from Clijsters brought her back towards the Top 50 and she began 2013 with her first big run at a major: the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Ranked too low for Wimbledon qualifying in 2012, she arrived to the All England Club as a Top 20 player, one who was at last ready to fulfill her potential. Capitalizing on a wild first-week exodus of many of the game’s biggest names, she flew into the quarterfinals without dropping a set, and rallied from a set down to defeat Kvitova, who was only two years removed from her own Wimbledon victory.

“I think I'm the most surprising name in the last four, but I don't really care, to be honest, at this moment,” said the 2003 junior Wimbledon winner.

“I'm really satisfied with the last two weeks. Yeah, I cannot tell you in words how happy I am.”


Though she never again matched those dizzying heights in singles, she reached a second major semifinal in doubles, partnering Johanna Larsson to reach the final four at 2019’s Roland Garros, and was a Top 100 staple for much of the last decade.

“Actually, three years ago it was my plan to maybe retire in 2020 at Wimbledon, but then we all know what happened with the pandemic,” she told the WTA. “So, I said, let's give it one more push and have a good pre-season for 2021. Then I had my injury with the ankle in January. But I'm pretty stubborn, and the thing is that for me, it always had to be Wimbledon where my last match would be. So, this year, third time lucky!”

Flipkens got her fairytale ending after an impressive grass-court swing, even winning a match at Wimbledon before bowing out to Simona Halep in the second round. Halep graciously ceded the spotlight to Flipkens for a bittersweet farewell interview.

“The emotions get to me, obviously,” she said as Clijsters applauded in the stands. “To be able to finish my career in singles against a champion like Simona, on a court like this with a crowd like you guys, it’s a dream.”

No doubt Flipkens will keep dreaming as she begins her next chapter, and with even half the gumption she brought to tennis, she’ll make them come true.