No regrets for new Hall of Famers Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick took in their new exhibits at the International Tennis Hall of Fame museum on Friday, the day before they were to be inducted. Elise Amendola/AP Photo

NEWPORT, R.I. -- Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters stood side by side Friday inside the International Tennis Hall of Fame museum recalling the first time they met -- over 20 years ago.

"It was 1996 in Japan," Roddick said.

"In Nagoya," Clijsters chimed in, finishing his sentence.

"It's amazing in tennis how you have these relationships that span time," Roddick explained. "You don't have to be in touch with the person all the time, but you still have those memories no matter where your life has taken you."

When Roddick and Clijsters touch base again Saturday, the Grand Slam champions and former world No. 1s will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, five years after they both called it quits at the 2012 US Open.

The requests for family and friend tickets have been off the charts for the last American man to win a major title in singles and one of the most affable women to play the game in recent memory.

It's a young Hall of Fame class, with both inductees just 34 years old. Roddick is a year younger than his nemesis Roger Federer, who won a record 19th Grand Slam just last week at Wimbledon. (Fed had a 21-3 head-to-head advantage over Roddick.) Clijsters is junior to both Williams sisters, including 37-year-old Venus, runner-up at the All England Club last week.

Do either of the inductees feel as though they stepped away too soon?

"It would be tougher negotiating those waters if I wasn't very happy being away," Roddick said in a quiet moment on what was otherwise a busy Friday.

"When I retired, I said I wasn't scared of what I was going home to, and I always had a separate home life [from tour]. A lot of people, when they retire, are stepping away from their social life on tour, but mine never really existed like that."

He continued: "I would be crazy if I told you that Gilles Muller making a run [at Wimbledon] all of a sudden doesn't play into my mind a little bit, or seeing Sam [Querrey] make it to the semis. But the 'what if' moments are very fleeting for me."

Roddick's ultimate "what if" moment came in 2009 at Wimbledon, when he led Federer two sets to one in the final before losing 16-14 in the fifth set. It was his last of five Grand Slam final appearances, in which he went 1-4.

Those demons don't seem to bother him much anymore, however.

"I know it wasn't long ago, but my life is so different now. Now my life is about changing diapers and watching 'PAW Patrol,'" he said, smiling.

As Roddick and Clijsters roamed the Hall of Fame museum Friday, they took in their exhibits for the first time. Andy carried his son, Hank, not yet 2 years old. Clijsters and her husband, former Villanova basketball player Brian Lynch, shared duties caring for their three kids, Jada, Jack and 9-month-old Blake.

It was for Jada that Clijsters first retired from tennis in 2007, giving birth in February 2008. When Clijsters came back and won the 2009 US Open as an unranked wild card, she was the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980.

Jada is featured in Clijsters' exhibit, just 18 months old and in her mother's arms while Kim held the US Open trophy on the court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Clijsters says Jada's only recollection of the US Open is from online footage. "She doesn't remember anything of it, so it's nice to share [my career] with the kids."

Since a stint as a BBC commentator in 2015 at Wimbledon, Roddick has stayed home (and away from commentary) for much of the past two years, aside from some senior-level events domestically. Clijsters, meanwhile, made her BBC debut this year and signed on as an ambassador for the WTA Finals in Singapore this coming October.

"I want to get out there more and do this kind of stuff," she said.

"BBC traded up when they brought her on," Roddick joked of their role reversal.

The moment this weekend represents isn't lost on either of them. They expressed the proliferation of butterflies since arriving in Newport, and Roddick (always quick to quip) said his speech was done, though he wasn't sure if it was any good.

He'll have plenty of support, however, with the likes of former coach Brad Gilbert in attendance, as well as contemporaries such as Mardy Fish, James Blake, the Bryan brothers and Larry Stefanki, who coached him at the end of his career.

"You don't get here by yourself," he said. "When I sent out the text when it happened, I wrote, 'We got into the Hall of Fame,' not 'I got into the Hall of Fame.' I'm amazed at the people who have shown up."

Clijsters, a four-time Grand Slam champion, said she always struggles when asked to single out one memory that trumps all the others.

"It's like having to pick your favorite kid," she said, speaking now from real-life experience. "I just can't do it."

What Clijsters can do, however, is peacefully look back at her career and where she stands now, etched as one of the greatest, even as some of her contemporaries continue on.

"The history in our sport means so much to me," she added. "Now, for me, I'm a part of that. That means so much to me."