Former grand slam champion Kim Clijsters has announced she will return to professional tennis in 2020, ending a seven-year hiatus from the game.
Clijsters, 36, announced she was back in training with a view to return to the WTA circuit next year, after taking a second prolonged break from the game to raise three children.
“What do I really want from life? For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time mum, and I love it. I really, really do,” she said on a video posted to Instagram and Twitter.
“But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling. So, what if I tried to do both? Could I be a loving Mum to my three kids and the best tennis player I can possibly be?
“Let’s do this. Let’s come back one more time. See you in 2020!”
— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) September 12, 2019
It will be the second time Clijsters will return to the professional tour after an extended break from the game; she shocked the tennis world in 2007 by announcing her first retirement at the age of 23 due to persistent injuries and a desire to start a family.
She had her first child and then returned to the sport in 2009, enjoying success before retiring again in 2012. She subsequently had two more children.
“I don’t really feel like I want to prove something. I think for me it’s the challenge,” Clijsters told the WTA Insider Podcast this week.
“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 … 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 where I’m saying ‘OK, let’s try this’.”
Clijsters, who has 41 career singles titles, including four grand slam gongs, said her biggest concern is the effect returning to the tour will have on her children Jada (11), Jack (5) and Blake (2).
“If you want to go through a marathon you’re not going to have the whole media in your face,” she said.
“That was, to me, the toughest part about it. I know that I can handle it, but the kids, that’s a different story. Our life is very easy and simple right now. It’s not just my life that is going to change.
“But then, obviously, I talked about it with my husband and with the team and then with [WTA chairman] Steve Simon from the WTA about being able to just hold off as much as possible to protect the children.”
It was not immediately clear if Clijsters would return to both singles and doubles or focus on one format.
Clijsters, who divides her time between homes in Belgium and New Jersey, clinched the Australian Open title in 2011 following her first return to tennis, to go with three US Open titles.
The WTA’s Simon welcomed Clijsters’ announcement.
“Kim Clijsters ranks among the greats of the game and her return to the Tour is exciting news for the WTA family and tennis fans around the world,” he said.
“Driven by her love for the sport, this wonderful champion continues to inspire women and men in all walks of life – and she only adds to the compelling wealth of talent in women’s tennis.”