Kim Clijsters, 36, makes comeback in era dominated by teens

Kim Clijsters plans to come out of retirement after a seven-year hiatus, returning to the WTA Tour in 2020

Kim Clijsters announces return

Belgium's Kim Clijsters announced her return to competitive tennis in 2020, seven years after retiring to become a stay-at-home mum of three children. 

The 36-year-old said she loved being a mum but missed the adrenalin of the tennis world tour. 

"These last seven years I've been a full-time mum. And I love it, I really do. But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling," she said on Twitter. 

(Photograph:AFP)

Her second return

The decision marks Clijsters' second return to the sport after first retiring in 2007.

She initially retired in 2007 aged 23, making a return two years later after having her first child to win her second US Open, then hanging up her racquet again after the 2012 US Open. 

(Photograph:AFP)

4 times Grand Slam champ

Clijsters made her WTA debut aged 15 at Antwerp in 1999. She has 41 singles titles, and is the only mother to top the WTA charts since computer rankings began in 1975. 

She won the US Open in 2005, 2009 and 2010, and the Australian Open in 2011. 

As well as her singles Grand Slam titles she won two more in doubles at the French Open and Wimbledon with Ai Sugiyama in 2003. 

(Photograph:AFP)

What's her motivation?

She told the WTA's official website that her motivation to come out of retirement wasn't that she felt she still had something to prove but rather for "the challenge".

"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," she said.

As a former world number one she can expect unlimited wildcards next season.

(Photograph:AFP)

Now competition is with dynamic teens

Despite her lengthy time out she still ranks third among active players in terms of tournament success behind the Williams sisters — Serena with 72 titles and Venus with 49.

But in today's era of women tennis which is dominated by the teenage stars like Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Barty, Coco Gauff, Bianca Andreescu etc, it will not be an easy task for Clijsters to stand out. 

(Photograph:AFP)

How comebacks fare?

"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," said Clijsters. 

Although, she said that she has nothing to prove, however, the ultimate goal in any competitive sport is winning. 

The existing examples of comebacks in women tennis are not exceptional. 

Serena Williams has, to some extent, impressed as she managed to play three Grand finals since returning after having a baby two years ago.

Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, on the other hand, have all failed to flourish since returning to the game. 

(Photograph:Reuters)

'See you in 2020'

In a 51-second video on social media she asks, "Could I be a loving mum to 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."

(Photograph:AFP)