Kim Clijsters reacts during her loss to Laura Robson in the second round… (Michael Heiman / Getty Images )
NEW YORK — Maybe it is time.
Kim Clijsters, a three-time U.S. Open champion, a sweet conqueror who seems disliked by no one, had said she would play no more singles whenever she lost here.
She lost here Wednesday.
Clijsters left skid marks on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court. She slid into shots in her trademark way, but suddenly those slides came a little late and her opponent, British teenager Laura Robson, would scamper to where Clijsters aimed the ball.
In the end, Clijsters sent a backhand service return long, and Robson beat the former champion, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), in the second round of the U.S. Open. Robson threw her hands in the air. But only briefly.
Robson, 18, gracefully left the court after she had stoutly withstood Clijsters' moments of ferocious play. She allowed Clijsters, a 29-year-old mother who had retired once and then come back to triumph here, to shed some tears and address the crowd.
"It feels like the perfect place to retire," Clijsters said. "I just wish it wasn't today. But there's no doubt in my mind, to pick a tournament and play my last singles match. Laura played extremely well. I just wasn't good enough at the end of the match.
"It's been a great adventure for my team and my family. It's all been worth it, but I look forward to the next part of my life coming up."
And then Robson acknowledged that she felt emotional about sending Clijsters away.
"At the end, it was really sad to see her play her last match," Robson said. "I honestly didn't think about it at all during the match. I was so focused on trying to play as aggressive as I could."
Robson finished off the upset of the 23rd-seeded Clijsters on her third match point and that was it, the end of Clijsters' 22-match winning streak at this tournament and the end of her singles career.
Clijsters is also entered in the women's doubles and mixed doubles draw here, but it felt as if an era had ended.
"I'm happy," Clijsters said. "It's been an incredible journey, and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis. As a little girl I got tennis rackets under the tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, and I would want to wear them to bed I was so excited."
It was a much more subdued atmosphere on Ashe for Clijsters than in the match that preceded it.
That's when 32-year-old Belgian Xavier Malisse uttered obscenities over line calls, lectured the crowd about its sometimes noisy New York ways and bedeviled ninth-seeded American John Isner with sharp angles and tennis volleys more rowdy than the crowd.
Isner withstood Malisse's antics and took a first-round win, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (9). Isner delivered 20 aces and his big serve pulled him out of trouble more than once.
"I knew the match was going to be tough," Isner said. "A lot of people are projecting me to go far here, but I wasn't looking past this match. As you could see, I had my hands full."
The women's third-seeded player, Maria Sharapova, did not have nearly as much trouble Wednesday night. She advanced to the third round with a 54-minute, 6-0, 6-1 win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain.