Sometimes, the simplest of choices can mean the difference between life and death.
And so it was for Belgian Kirsten Flipkens. The 27-year-old had just stepped off a plane from Thailand last year and was experiencing terrible pain in her calf. A visit to the doctor uncovered four blood clots.
“It was only two days before I left to Japan that they found out I had blood clots so I was really lucky,” Flipkens told the Herald Sun newspaper.
“Of course it's not nice when they found out I had the blood clots but on the other hand I'm lucky. I'm still alive and I'm enjoying the game more than ever.
"For the moment I'm OK and I'm healthy."
Had Flipkens not seen the doctor and taken that flight to Japan, it may well have been her last. Instead, she was forced onto the sidelines for the next two months as she received treatment.
These days she needs blood thinners and compression socks for flights longer than three hours, but it’s a small price to pay.
During Flipkens’ recovery, her ranking went into free fall, finally coming to rest at No.262 – a long way from the world’s top 100 where she had previously resided.
It was around this time that the Belgian Tennis Federation withdrew support. But luckily for Flipkens, Kim Clijsters – one of Belgium’s finest tennis products – extended a helping hand.
“She’s just a good friend of mine that is trying to help me in part of my job,” Flipkens told 10sballs.com.
“But on the other hand, we’re also just having fun, and go shopping. Of course, it’s nice to be there and have help from such a great player and such a great person. But to me, it’s not Kim Clijsters the tennis player, it’s Kim Clijsters my good friend.”
With Clijsters’ support, Flipkens won her maiden WTA title in Quebec City late last year, knocking out four players ranked higher than her, including then No.13 Dominika Cibulkova.
Flipkens has carried that good form into 2013. Quarterfinals in Auckland followed by semifinals in Hobart and now the fourth round in Melbourne will see Flipkens crack the top 50 when the rankings are released after the Australian Open.
Victories over Nina Bratchikova, Valeria Savinykh and 23rd seed Klara Zakopalova have Flipkens believing she can match it with the world’s best. And one of them is waiting for her in the fourth round – Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova shouldn’t underestimate Flipkens, who is the only unseeded player left in the bottom half of the women’s draw. Sharapova has won both of their previous matches but an inspired Flipkens, who isn’t taking anything for granted, could prove a difficult assignment.