Ten months ago, Kim Clijsters announced that she would return to the tour, on the WTA Insider Podcast, and now she has found winning form as a key member of the New York Empire during the unique 2020 season of World TeamTennis. In fact, Clijsters has thus far outperformed all of her opponents women’s singles opponents in her first four matches at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.
She dispatched Bernarda Pera 5-2 in her opening encounter against the Washington Kastles last Monday. She then triumphed over Sofia Kenin of the Philadelphia Freedoms two days later, winning 5-3. It has been 15 years since a young Kenin spent time with Clijsters at the 2005 Miami Masters and since then the American has established herself as one of the leading figures in the women’s game, winning the Australian Open earlier this year.
Clijsters then faced off against the Orlando Storm’s Danielle Collins, herself a former-Australian Open semifinalist, with Clijsters picking up a 5-4 win. Sloane Stephens, the US Open champion in 2017, was her latest victim, losing to Clijsters in seven games. That is some run of victories for a player who only returned to competitive tennis in February after an eight-year absence.
Clijsters has also been subbed in to play women’s doubles alongside either Kveta Peschke or Sabine Lisicki. Clearly, Clijsters is the player that the New York Empire are currently betting on to win them matches, and she has also established herself as the best partner for Great Britain’s Neal Skupski in the mixed doubles.
From the second match on, Skupski and Clijsters have been a consistent force, coming up clutch when under pressure. That has enabled them to score some fine victories, including over Taylor Townsend and Fabrice Martin of the Freedoms, Jessica Pegula and Neal’s brother Ken, of the Orlando Storm, and Rajeev Ram and Bethanie Mattek-Sands with the newest entry in to the WTT, the Chicago Smash.
Clijsters, considered by Skupski to be the matriarch of the team, last played in the WTT back in 2010, when she lined up as part of the New York Sportimes, a team which was sold in 2013 and relocated to San Diego the following year. She spoke of the fond memories she had with that team: “I enjoyed the team atmosphere and the fun that you have. I am looking forward to joining the team, and everyone getting together to practice hard and support each other through tough matches.”
Though the Empire lost to the WTT joint-leaders Smash yesterday, 22-21, in an intense super tiebreaker showdown featuring New York’s Jack Sock against the star newcomer Brandon Nakashima, the Empire (at 2-2) remain in contention to reach the WTT playoffs. Clijsters and the Empire will be back on the court Saturday night at 7:30 pm when they will clash with the defending WTT King Cup Champions, the Springfield Lasers, who have made a slow 1-3 start to this year’s campaign. Don’t be surprised to see Clijsters leading the way.
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