Kim Clijsters beat Serena Williams 6-3, 6-2 at the Best of Belgium tennis exhibition in Brussels on Thursday. According to the exhibition website, a record tennis crowd of exactly 35,681 people showed up to watch the match – topping the previous record set in 1973 in Houston, when 30,472 spectators watched Billie Jean King defeat Bobby Riggs in the best-of-five Battle of the Sexes exhibition.
Most, if not all, of Thursday’s spectators bought tickets back when Justine Henin was still on the bill. Non-Belgian Serena Williams stepped in for the injured Henin at the last minute, despite reportedly dealing with her own foot injury. French Open champ Francesca Schiavone played understudy and Martina Navratilova was chair umpire. Justine Henin waved.
The match was played in the historic King Baudouin Stadium before Belgium’s Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde. Leo Clijsters, Kim’s late father, played soccer in the same stadium. Kim said she was very moved by the occasion:
“I was here often as a little girl to come and watch football,” she said. “That I can actually play here is very special and emotional. . .I said to myself a few times: ‘Remember this moment well.’ “ (Via Best of Belgium website – google translated)
Serena liked the attention the event brought to tennis: “It was magnificent,” Williams said after the match. “In all my years on the WTA circuit, I’ve never experienced anything like it. . .So much attention to tennis is fantastic.“ (Via Best of Belgium website – google translated)
This video doesn’t give you a real sense of the match, but it does show the crazy scale of the crowd vs. the court: