The WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) announced that former World No.1 Kim Clijsters, winner of 41 career singles titles including four Grand Slams and three season-ending WTA Finals, is in training with plans to compete on the professional tennis tour in 2020.
Clijsters, who played the first professional matches of her career on the ITF Circuit in 1997 and made her WTA debut age 15 at Antwerp in 1999, was 29 years old when she played her last competitive matches at the US Open in 2012. Now 36, the Belgian eyes her return to the tennis circuit as a mother of three – daughter Jada was born in February 2008, followed by sons Jack (2013) and Blake (2016). She is also a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, having been inducted in the Class of 2017.
“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,” said Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO. “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. I wish Kim all the best in this next chapter of her playing career.”
Clijsters’ ‘first career’ was highlighted by two victories at the WTA Finals (2002-03), 19 non-consecutive weeks as World No.1 on the WTA Rankings (first attained on August 11, 2003 for 10 weeks), and a maiden Grand Slam title at the 2005 US Open. That triumph at Flushing Meadows came after four runner-up finishes at Slams: Roland Garros in 2001 and 2003, the US Open in 2003 and the Australian Open in 2004.
She stepped away from tennis in May 2007, marrying Brian Lynch shortly after and giving birth to a daughter, Jada, the following year. But in July 2009, after 26 months away from the tour, she launched a famous comeback that began with a run to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Then, in just her third tournament back, Clijsters won the US Open to become the first mother to win a Grand Slam title since Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon in 1980. She defended the Flushing Meadows crown in 2010, before going on to capture a third WTA Finals title at Doha and win the 2011 Australian Open. Her victory in Melbourne helped Clijsters return to No.1 for a 20th career week in February 2011 – the only mother to hold the top spot since computer rankings began in November 1975.
Her last singles match was against Laura Robson in the second round at the 2012 US Open, which she lost in two tie-break sets. This was followed by a first round doubles exit partnering with fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens and finally, a second round appearance with Bob Bryan in the mixed doubles.
With 41 singles titles (41-19 record in finals), Clijsters still places third among active players, behind Serena Williams (72 titles) and Venus Williams (49) – and 14th on the Open Era list. She reached at least the semifinals on 16 of her 35 Grand Slam appearances and also shone in doubles, winning 2003 Roland Garros and Wimbledon (both with Ai Sugiyama) among 11 titles and spending 4 weeks at No.1. She remains one of just six women to simultaneously hold the top spot in both singles and doubles.
In addition to being a fan favorite, Clijsters won the WTA’s Peachy Kellmeyer Player Service Award in 2010 and the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award a record eight times – both accolades decided by peer vote. She was named Most Impressive Newcomer by international media in 1999; Comeback Player of the Year in 2005 and 2009; and Player of the Year in 2005 and 2010. In recent years she served as a Legend Ambassador for the WTA Finals in Singapore.
As a former World No.1, Clijsters is eligible for unlimited wildcards at WTA tournaments. She will need play three tournaments or earn 10 ranking points to re-establish a ranking.