Life – and tennis – can sometimes be a full circle sort of thing.
Last week, newly minted US Open champion Bianca Andreescu was being called the new Kim Clijsters by some in the game.
Thursday, the original announced that she was returning to competitive tennis one more time.
Clijsters, whose last match came in the second round of the 2012 US Open – seven years ago – is still just 36.
She’s three years younger than Venus Williams, who is planning a full slate of events in Asia this fall with wild cards in Wuhan and Beijing, and entry into Hong Kong.
And she’s nearly two years younger than Serena Williams.
“While there is a lot of work ahead of me in the next four months, my biggest motivation is the personal challenge involved – both physically and mentally, I want to test myself again. At 36 years old I feel like I’m too young to be retired and, with so many inspirational athletes and moms competing, I can’t wait to get back on the match court and see what’s possible after having three children,” Clijsters said in a press release.
A video production company has been following Clijsters’ journey for six months now.
“The end product will be an emotional and honest story about the choices, hard work and sacrifices Clijsters faces in her comeback,” the press release states.
Out of the blue
Clijsters had been at the US Open early in the tournament this year, for the ceremony adding her to the Walk of Champions.
She then returned home.
But there was something in the works. Clijsters didn’t just casually drop this on Twitter.
There was a video.
(Video courtesy De Mensen)
Still around the game
Clijsters has three children: Jada (who memorably took the court with her when she won the US Open in 2009, after her first comeback) is already 11 1/2. Jack turns six in October, and was born just a year after she played what then was her final match. And Blake turns three in October.
She first became No. 1 in singles – and doubles just over 16 years ago, when she had just turned 20.
She came back after her first retirement in 2007 (when she was just 23 years old), with daughter Jada, and won the 2009 US Open.
After the second retirement, Clijsters stayed around the game. She worked with several players both through her academy and even on site at tournaments.
She also has been a regular in the legends events.
Clijsters was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame two years ago. Although she wouldn’t be the first inductee to “unretire” and come back to the game.
Exhibition in NY
Clijsters played an exhibition with John McEnroe a few weeks ago at Flushing Meadows, although the legends event is all but defunct now because there are only a few exhibition matches, and they’re played during the qualifying week.
She also was inducted into the US Open’s Court of Champions.
— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) August 29, 2019
(Probably had to pass on those fabulous-looking cupcakes, if she’s back in training!)
She played the Wimbledon legends invitational in July, paired with Rennae Stubbs.
What’s the plan?
Clijsters says “see you in 2020” in the video, so now is the time to get back in fighting shape for the comeback.
Why is she doing it? Well, the first thing is because she can. Why not?
She did a podcast with the WTA Tour website in conjunction with the news. And the general takeaway is that the Belgian loves tennis, and she wants to challenge herself.
“”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. … 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?”
Clijsters has been working with her old trainer Sam Verslegers, And she has reunited with longtime coach Carl Maes with “more team members” to come.
What’s the plan? Well, if Clijsters feels in December that she’s not in good enough shape, it won’t be at the start of 2020. So it’s a fluid situation.
Flexible plans, and schedule
She won’t have any minimum standards on the number of the tournaments she has to play, because of her service time. Will she start back at the top-level tournaments, simply because she can? Or will she ease into it?
I guess we’ll all find out along with her.
The last such comeback announcement from a former Grand Slam champion ended up not happening at all.
Marion Bartoli, the 2013 Wimbledon champion, announced at the end of the 2017 season that she would return in 2018.
She was younger than Clijsters is now. But it turned out not to be; her body just wouldn’t let her.
One fascinating thing to watch in early 2020 will be the tussle amongst the veterans for the top-20 wild cards.
This season, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and occasionally Victoria Azarenka have all vied for those.
Clijsters would be eligible for those as well, with her resumé.