Kim Clijsters is renowned for securing consecutive US Open victories at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows in 2009 and 2010. Her conquests were made all the more impressive as she had just returned from having a daughter.
She has recently returned to the scene of her greatest triumphs, but this time for another racket sport. She was at Court 16’s Downtown Brooklyn venue, where she conducted a series of pickleball clinics.
In her characteristic style, Clijsters provided insightful advice about players’ techniques with a gentle voice and a beaming smile.
Throughout the evening, she effortlessly transitioned between tennis, her initial passion, and pickleball, her newfound interest.
Notably, as the co-owner of the Las Vegas Night Owls, a Major League Pickleball (MLP) team supported by figures like Tom Brady and Knighthead Capital, alongside Kaitlyn Kerr and Callie Simpkins, Clijsters is determined to leverage her illustrious tennis career to propel pickleball to unprecedented heights.
Challenges For This Booming Sport
Clijsters sat down with Stephanie Livaudais of Baseline to talk about her involvement in pickleball as well as the challenges that still lie ahead for this booming sport.
“In tennis, I’ve been a player, I’ve owned an academy, I’ve been a tournament director, I’ve been on the board of the WTA,” Clijsters says. “And so to be able to use that and to learn from some of the great business people that are involved in the Major League Pickleball has been so fun and really rewarding.”
She talked about how she first got into the sport: “It was basically for me, moving from Europe to New Jersey during COVID. Pickleball became my social life. You know, I know people in the area, but they were basically family or people that were related to my husband’s side of the family.”
The Business Side Of The Sport
Her interest in the business side of the sport originated through a fellow player:
“Well, a few of the women that I worked with and played with… One of them worked for a bank during the US Open, and I found out that she was living in my area of New Jersey before I even moved there. But she’s huge into pickleball. She calls herself Pickleball Chick on social media.
“But she’s very involved in a lot of different organizations, works for foundations. And she’s the one who got me involved with it, as well as a few other women.”
Pickleball’s Stock Is Rising
Pickleball’s stock is rising on and off the court, and Clijsters puts that down to a number of reasons:
“So I think the foundation is set. Right? I think that’s the most important thing: the foundation is set. And I’m not sure the exact number, but they’re saying that there’s something like 30 million amateurs at that level.
“When you have that as a foundation, it’s incredible the businesses that will come out of that, like the ideas that will grow from it. I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet. Like you see some facilities – something like this, here at Court 16 –and we’ve seen what Top Golf has done in golf. But then for pickleball, there’s facilities like that coming up.”
“To watch it, like to go to a Major League Pickleball event live, is incredible. It’s so fast, their reactions, their tactics. It’s so much fun to watch live. It’s exciting from the first shot to the last point. But yeah, I’m curious to see how they will be able to develop the sport at the pro level.”
Tennis Channel And PickleballTV
Tennis Channel is about to launch PickleballTV, a 24/7 streaming channel that’s all about pickleball, and Clijsters believes that can only benefit the sport:
“I think it’s great! And not just for the US, but I think it’s going to bring in even more people that maybe come to the States and watch it. It will grow the sport to different countries, too.
“For example, since I’ve been involved, they want to talk to colleges, they want to talk to the Olympic Committee to see if pickleball can go there. So we need it to not just be in America.
“When I go to Belgium, like I was there last week, nobody talks about pickleball in Europe. It’s not there at all. So there’s still a long way to go if we want pickleball to become a respected sport within the Olympic Committee.
“At colleges here in America, it’s going to work, but it’s gonna take time. But that’s the fun, to figure it out and see where this can go.”
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