For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and TENNIS.com—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
In a rare double-double that will surprise absolutely nobody, the male and female winners swept the International Tennis Writers Association’s annual Player of the Year and Ambassador for Tennis awards. That’s not just unusual; it speaks volumes about the character of the two winners, Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters. –Peter Bodo / January 2006
In 2010, Kim Clijsters was in the midst of a resurgence that would see her win two US Opens and one Australian Open. But if there was anything that defined the Belgian’s late-career run, it wasn’t a new approach to her tennis—it was a new phase of her life. Clijsters was now a mother, which the world saw first-hand when she won the 2009 US Open and held her 18-month-old daughter, Jada, in addition to the silver trophy.
What the world didn’t see on that memorable day, or the following year in New York—when photogenic Jada made another trophy-ceremony appearance—was Clijsters’ support of other children around the world. In January 2010, Clijsters donated her winnings at the Brisbane International to a local children’s hospital. Then, in April, along with her husband Brian Lynch and Jada, Clijsters became an ambassador for SOS Children’s Villages Belgium, which provides care for children without parents, and for those who are at risk of losing them.
“I’m awfully fond of children and find it very important that they should grow up in a family, with the support and security they need and where they can grow up to become strong human beings,” she said. “There are still too many children who do not have this chance.”
After visiting the Simba House in Liedekerke, Belgium, a project of SOS Children’s Villages, Clijsters traveled to the European Parliament to promote the non-governmental organization and speak to a critical situation in Europe.
“One million children just in Europe are not in the care of their parents often because of poverty and material deprivation,” Clijsters told European Parliament’s website. “A lot of people probably think that this is something that only happens in third-world countries.”
Eight years later, Clijsters remains an ambassador for SOS Children’s Villages. She recently shared the NGO’s #NoChildAlone video on her Facebook page, where children were asked to “show us how your mum or dad cares for you” but which ended with a sobering fact: one in 10 children still grow up alone. For Clijsters, who retired from tennis in 2012, another career is just underway.