Kim Clijsters’ popularity has always been high in Australia but she won over even the hardest of hearts after claiming the Brisbane International tennis title.
Clijsters, who beat Justine Henin in an epic three-set final on Saturday night, donated her $37,000 first prize to Brisbane’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
The 26-year-old mother of one made the donation after being touched by the hardship of young cancer patients on a visit to the hospital a week before.
Clijsters said the children’s struggles, and that of their families, had affected her deeply.
“It changes you, it stuck with me for days,” she said. “It’s terrible to see kids [suffering].
“There were boys and girls Jada’s age, 17 months and three years old, with brain tumours and everything.
“You wonder how it was possible for a young baby like that and it’s not easy.”
Formerly known as “Aussie Kim” when previously engaged to Lleyton Hewitt, Clijsters has kept in touch with some parents of the young patients leading up to her final.
She hoped her “small amount” would encourage others to support the public hospital.
“I thought what can I do? ” she said. “It’s run by donations and sponsors everything.
“It’s a small amount but hopefully it can help other people and other people can see it that it’s a good thing and hopefully other people can donate.
“Maybe in the long run it can really help.”