Former world No. 1 Clijsters to return to competitive tennis


Fri, Mar 27, 2009 - Page 20

Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters of Belgium announced her return to competitive tennis yesterday, almost two years after retiring from the sport at just 23 years old.

“I intend to play in the US Open and, almost certainly, in the tournaments at Cincinnati [early August] — my first official tournament back — and Toronto,” she told a press conference in her hometown. “I have been practicing on a regular basis with my training partner Wim Fissette and my physical coach Sam Verslegers, sometimes as much as six hours a day. The desire is back.”

The right-hander, famous for her trademark splits defensive play, won 34 WTA tournaments and 11 doubles’ crowns, including the 2005 US Open title when she defeated French player Mary Pierce 6-3, 6-1 at Flushing Meadows.

She also won the 2002 and 2003 women’s season-ending tour championship title.

Clijsters lost four Grand Slam finals, notably the 2003 French Open and US Open championship matches, as well as the 2004 Australian Open to compatriot and rival Justine Henin, who has also since retired.

She reached the top of the world rankings in August 2003 and had a record of 427 wins against 104 defeats, as well as having the rare distinction of holding the No. 1 spot in both singles and doubles in 2003. But sidelined by a succession of injuries and eager to start a family with new husband Brian Lynch, an US basketball player, she abruptly announced her retirement in May 2007 at just 23 years old.

Clijsters married Lynch in 2007 and the couple celebrated the birth of their daughter Jade Elie in February last year.

The popular Belgian has been competing in a number of exhibition events in recent months and is also set to play at an exhibition tournament this summer at Wimbledon, along with Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Tim Henman.

Since the shock retirement of Henin a year ago, the top spot in women’s tennis has been up for grabs, with Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and currently Serena Williams successively filling the spot.