Kim Clijsters announces shock return to tennis - seven years after retiring

Molly McElwee
The Telegraph
Kim Clijsters made her first return from tennis in 2009, when she won the US Open - Reuters
Kim Clijsters made her first return from tennis in 2009, when she won the US Open - Reuters

Four-time grand slam champion Kim Clijsters yesterday announced her surprise return to competitive tennis at the age of 36, more than seven years since retiring. 

The Belgian enjoyed great success throughout her 14-year career, accumulating 41 singles titles, reaching world no 1 in 2003 and earning over $20,000,000 in prize money.

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Her final appearance on the tour was at the US Open in 2012 and she has been working in punditry and at her tennis academy in Belgium since, as well as playing on the Legends circuit. But on Thursday Clijsters revealed she would be forging a comeback, and has made tentative plans to launch her official return in January 2020. 

Now a mother of three, Clijsters said she has nothing left to prove in this unexpected career revival. 

"I don't really feel like I want to prove something," Clijsters said. "I think for me it's the challenge. 

"I have friends who would say, I want to run the New York Marathon before I turn 50. For me, I still love to play tennis. Whenever I'm at a Grand Slam playing the Legends, if somebody asked me 'Hey, do you want to hit some balls?', I'm the first one to be like, 'I'll hit, I'll be the hitting partner for your practice today'. I still love playing tennis. 

"The love for the sport is obviously still there. But the question still is, am I capable of bringing it to a level where I would like it to be at and where I want it to be at before I want to play at a high level of one of the best women's sports in the world. 

"I don't feel like I need to prove anything, but I want to challenge myself and I want to be strong again. This is my marathon."

This is not Clijsters' first U-turn on retirement. In 2007, aged just 23 and two years after winning her first grand slam, she announced her retirement from tennis due to injuries and wanting to start a family. She came back two years later though and would go on to win three more grand slam titles, including the 2009 US Open, which was just her third tournament back since the birth of her first child. 

Clijsters will need to begin from scratch in terms of rankings this time, but as a former World No.1, she remains eligible for unlimited wildcards at WTA tournaments.

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