Wed Mar 23 12:16pm EDT
Speaking to Flemish journalists during a media session in Key Biscayne, the four-time Grand Slam champion said she'll skip tournaments in Beijing and Tokyo out of concern for fallout from the recent nuclear disasters in Japan.
The context of her comments is important, hence the full transcript (translated from Flemish, via Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog):
Question: When you are looking at the world events of Japan and Libya do you think about what is happening to the world and [your daughter] Jada's future?
Clijsters: Certainly. As soon as I heard that there was a radioactive cloud on its way to the west coast, normally I would not have worried about that, because you think it's so far away. But this time I was "Let's get out of here as soon as possible," and also with Jada you think about it differently. When I was younger I used to worry about stuff, like when we had to go to Australia or Tokyo, and the war in Kuwait (sic) was going on and then on your flight map you could see that we were flying over Iraq and Iran and I had quite a bit of fear. I want to follow world affairs, but I do know that when Jada is walking around I don't want her to see those things. But Brian [her husband] looks at it quite differently. He knows what is happening and feels badly about it but it does not affect him as much as it affects me.
I was like, "We need to get those pills." I went to all the natural food stores to look for products with natural iodine like seaweed, spirulina and kelp. I bought it all. And Brian just laughs at me. He is like, "if the government says it will not have any influence, no problem." But I think they are lying. Of course, they say that because they can't evacuate the whole west coast. But I won't be fooled. Even in Belgium my sister and aunt called me saying, "you gotta leave because the cloud is coming, or you can just put Jada alone the plane and we'll pick her up here at the airport." What a panic. It was a bummer. Do you really think it can get here in Indian Wells? I didn't even want to imagine it.
Question: Then there's the Toray (Pan Pacific Open) in Tokyo in October.
Clijsters: I won't go. And I won't go to Beijing either.
Those tournaments are six months away, so to withdraw now (however unofficially) comes off as anxious and frivolous. Her sentiment isn't wrong (there can't be many people lining up to board a plane to Japan right now), but it sounds callous as the nation still digs out from the rubble. Clijsters' reaction is a mix of concerned mother and neurotic worrier, but it hardly makes her a drama queen.