In a surprising turn of events, the four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters announced, via a very polished Instagram video, that she still loved the challenge of playing tennis and planned to return to competitive action next season at the age of 36. The Belgian Hall-of-Famer played her last competitive singles match at the 2012 US Open, losing to Britain’s Laura Robson in the second round. But in an interview with the WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen, Clijsters detailed the thinking behind this intriguing u-turn.
“I don’t feel like I want to prove something. I think for me it’s the challenge…I still love playing tennis”.
Balancing playing and parenting
As long as her pre-season training goes to plan than the 2020 season will mark the second time that Clijsters has returned to the WTA Tour. She initially retired from competitive tennis in 2007 at the age of 23 due to an apparent lack of desire to compete and demoralized by injuries. But after getting married and giving birth to her daughter, Jada, Clijsters re-found her competitive spirit and returned to the tour in 2009. Now, at the age of 36, and with two sons (Jack and Blake) added to the family, Clijsters will likely face a huge challenge to return to the top of the sport.
What will qualify as a success?
In Clijsters’ previous comeback she defeated Serena Williams in the 2009 US Open final in only her third tournament back. She went on to retain that title in 2010 and win the 2011 Australian Open title as well, winning the WTA Player of the Year title in 2010 in the process.
One would think a repeat of this level of success is out of the question. That said, Williams has just finished a campaign that has seen her compete in yet another Grand Slam final, and she is a mother and almost two years Clijsters’ senior. Clijsters herself is, unsurprisingly, talking down her chances of getting back to the top of the game. Instead, she is just looking at the decision as a challenge to herself;
“I still have three and a half months before and so I still think I can have a lot of improvement to go through in these next few months and I look forward to seeing where that will lead me”.
It will certainly add some interest to the opening months of the WTA season if Clijsters can get into competitive shape. Tennis fans all over the world will be eager to see this great champion back in action.
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