Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon welcomes the return of one former tennis pro to the WTA.
In typical years, the immediate post-US Open period on the tennis calendar is defined by a sort of détente.
You see, tennis has just about been going non-stop for four or five months when we reach Flushing Meadows for the biggest party in the tennis world, so much so that it’s just about normal that once the US Open has come and gone to like chill and relax for a minute. It’s human nature even.
Sure, we never really stop for long, as before we know it we’re off to Asia for a number of different «kind of a big deal» tournaments—but the immediate week after the last Grand Slam event has basically nothing to look forward to.
Well, not in 2019.
— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) September 12, 2019
The former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters announced in the next few days after Rafael Nadal’s ascent to heaven and Bianca Andreescu’s arrival that she was attempting a comeback—a second one, this one—for the 2020 season.
She discussed the news in greater detail than on the video embedded above with folks from the WTA Insider podcast. “I don’t really feel like I want to prove something, I think for me it’s the challenge,” she said. “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 is a 36-year-old Belgian who managed to hold No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles in 2003—that probably has to be the first line of her biography, right?
Now she’s attempting a second comeback next year, which casino and betting operators
from around the world predict would happen.
After eight full years away from the sport. She hasn’t specified when in 2020 she might compete again, or at which tournament she’ll start, or for how long she’ll play—but who cares.
There is still a ton of things that she’ll firm up and iron out but for now, the real and lone victory is that tennis gets one of its proudest and biggest ambassadors, one who made the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017 after a playing career where she won over 80 per cent of her matches, added 41 titles including four Grand Slams to her name as well as a whopping $24+ million won in prize money.
Clijsters retired a first time in 2007 at just 23 years old as she was seemingly entering her prime and just before getting married and having her first daughter. After giving birth, she somehow had to accompany her father, terminally ill, to his death. Her return to the sport in 2009 came with much fanfare and she managed to win the first of back-to-back US Open titles that year. It got so good that she kept winning regularly enough to make it back to the top of the WTA rankings in 2011.
That all said, here’s an aside: that a player like Clijsters, one of the very best of the sport, feel like she has to retire to have a family is an indictment on the entire sport—and frankly, it’s shameful that Clijsters had to learn this the hard way not once but twice.
But in any case, now she’s back with us. Or rather, she’s announced that she is coming back, but you know: potato, potata.
Clijsters has traditionally been an unbelievable baseline player, as strong defensively as anyone else on tour when she played and able to cover as much of the court as anyone else, well, ever? When she played, she had a well-rounded game that was best suited for hard courts; this shouldn’t be different next year, right?
What she is or isn’t in 2019 remains to be seen, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. As she has always done in her career, Clijsters is choosing to leave or come back on her terms: as a new mother of three and only now that she feels the time is right. “I’m 36 years old. I know in four years I’m not going to be able to do this,” she said. “I’ve always followed my instincts,” she said. “I was very young when I retired to have my first daughter and came back. To do it now, I think, to me, is a challenge. And I love the challenge. I’m not afraid of it.”
We can’t wait to see her take on said challenge head one like she always did.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG