Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kim Clijsters Announces Return



Former Belgian tennis champion Kim Clijsters gives a press conference at the De Boneput tennis center, in Bree, northern Beligum, on March 26, 2009. Kim Clijsters of Belgium on Thursday announced her return to competitive tennis almost two years after retiring from the sport at just 23 years old.

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From her website:

In August Kim Clijsters will return to the world of professional tennis and participate in three official tournaments: the US Open and the WTA tournaments of Cincinnati and Toronto. In the period leading up to that, several exhibition matches have been scheduled. Kim will play in Belgium only once, at the Diamond Games. The event has been reshaped and the 'new formula' will take place in Antwerp from 10 to 13 December.

Kim Clijsters started the year eager to be training again on a frequent basis and her initial aim was to take part in a few exhibition matches. Her hunger for competition has proven bigger than assumed and she still enjoys thorough and strenuous training sessions. Which is why she decides to see what would be feasible, combined with her family life.

On 10 August Clijsters will be playing her first official match in Cincinnati, her first competition since she retired on 3 May 2007. The subsequent week Kim starts the Toronto tournament. On 31 August she returns to the US Open, the Grand Slam tournament she won in 2005.

"It all started with preparing for the gala match at Wimbledon, all pretty laid-back. I liked it that much I was onto my training schedule from my pro days and then the hunger for more comes automatically," Clijsters says. "I am look at this as a second career, not as a comeback as I am now in a situation where not everything evolves around tennis 24 hours a day. We'll see how I, Jada and the others in my environment respond to this."

On 17 May, Clijsters will be playing her first matches, during A Centre Court Celebration, the official opening of the retractable roof at Wimbledon. In June an exhibition match in Rosmalen awaits, followed by two more in the US in July. Kim will take stock after the official tournaments in August.

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Full disclosure: I was never a fan. But when I read the reports that her father died of cancer, the first thing I thought was, She's definitely going to come back now.

The loss of a father can be one of the most transforming experiences of a person's life, no matter how old they are. But for someone as young as Kim, who just had a child of her own, I can imagine that the only thing she can do with her grief is get out on the court and train and grind, but above all else, compete. Afterall, her father brought her to the sport.

She always struck me as a politician. Something about the way she presented Miss Congeniality to the media and the fans, but behind the scenes, she seemed ruthless about getting her way. Like a good politician, she leaked her announcement to the press and followed it up days later with a huge press conference.

As we bemoan the current boredom of the women's tour, this announcement couldn't come at a better time. Beloved around the world and with a game that will give all these young ball-bashing baseliners fits (for those who think Victoria Azarenka is the next champion, think again...), her mere presence will inject the tour with some much-needed life.

Who knows, maybe motherhood and father loss will cure her biggest liability -- her mental frailty -- and she will go on to win another Slam or two.

Surely she can see her opportunities. Now she intends to seize them.

20 comments:

Mad Professah said...

Wow!!

And the countdown for Justine's return begins NOW!

Pamela said...

Justine left under different circumstances, I don't think she's returning.

I hate to sound like the pessimist because I like Kimmy, a lot. I don't think she'll fare any better than Davenport did upon her return. Well, maybe a little better but coming back after two years and snatching up a slam? I don't see it happening.

I hope she wins a title or two while she familiarizes herself with the new crop of players.

Beth said...

I always liked Kim. I really hope this works out for her.

Karen said...

Who wrote this comment? It could not be Craig. I could not disagree with you more about her return to the Tour. She will be in for a rude awakening if she is of the view that the Tour is in serious trouble. I acknowledge that her father's death may have something to do with her comeback, but I doubt very much that it will make her mentally tough. Then again, if Sania Mirza can lose a match when her opponetn has 18 double faults then there may be hope for Clijsters yet

Craig Hickman said...

Pamela, the WTA is so weak right now, she can fare much better than Davenport. She's younger, faster, fitter. At her playing best, I also think she's better.

History has given us champions who returned to the winner's circle after giving birth.

Clijsters' head was her enemy. Had she had a stronger constitution, she'd have given Serena fits, I tell you. As it was, look how many leads she squandered on big stages to Serena. Sure, our girl is the best come-from-the-brink champion the sport has ever seen. But Kim has been on the other side of that net too many times for it to have just been about Serena raising her game.

Kim couldn't close out Jennifer Capriati in her first Slam final, she couldn't beat her compatriot nemesis at a Slam to save her life. I'd never have thought she would even beat Venus and then she had to in order to win her first Slam.

If she were as ruthless on court as she seems to be behind the scenes, she'd have most of Justine's Slams and a few of Serena's.

Another Slam win is in her future if she has the guts to take it.

I'm not certain of many things, but of this, I have no doubt.

Pamela said...

Craig, I have absolutely no questions about her talent or her athleticism. She was great, and a much better player thank Jankovic who they compare her to from time to time.

The tour is indeed weak, but I just don't get the feeling that she'll have her heart truly in it despite what she says. It's pure speculation on my part, but that's how I feel. She left whining and complaining about lack of desire and a multitude of injuries.

Then again, when she went on her tear in the summer of 2005 she was nursing a broken heart from Lleyton. Perhaps grief would be the fuel to keep her head together.

I do wish her well. I kind of wish Mary Pierce could make her come back too. I would SO love that.

Craig Hickman said...

Yes, Karen. It's me.

I don't think her comeback in her mind has anything to do with the tour needing all the help it can get right now.

But the timing couldn't be better.

Like her or not, people will tune in to see how the story unfolds.

Look what happened when Hingis came back? She was away much longer, but Clijsters is coming back in the wake of personal tragedy, if that's not too strong a word. And at a time when the WTA product is wanting.

You can't write this stuff.

Craig Hickman said...

Pamela said...

Then again, when she went on her tear in the summer of 2005 she was nursing a broken heart from Lleyton. Perhaps grief would be the fuel to keep her head together.

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Bam.

Savannah said...

Justine will be back.

Kim got some of the softest draws ever and that was what got her deep in so many tournaments.

I don't see her return going all that well. In fact I don't see her beating Azarenka. :)

Graf_sampras said...

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA IS COMING BACK.

between her and Billie Jean King they will win all the majors.

Graf_sampras said...

i meant - to her old elementary school in czechoslovakia to get even with her classmates that called her a dyke....

Craig Hickman said...

All I can say is that if Clijsters wins a Slam in her comeback, no one can say that no one could have ever imagined it.

Savannah said...

The Cupcake will have to go through a Williams (or two depending on the draw), Dementieva (IW not withstanding), one of the newbies and a random to win a Slam.

We'll see Mr. Hickman. :)

pompelmo said...

I must agree with Craig. She is only 25, and was a physical player before. She must at least have 2-3 left in her.

This is not Hingis that will have to compete in a different world, who by the way reached as high as no.6 and usually was beaten by Clijters.

Mad Professah said...

I put the probability of Clijsters winning a slam in the years 2009-11 as under 50% (i.e. unlikely).

I will wait for a more precise prognostication afterI have seen her play.

I do think Kimmy will be surprised by Dementieva and some of her other tourmates who have improved tremendously.

Adrian said...

Can I get some examples of Kim's behind the scenes ruthlessness?

b said...

Sorry to sound cynical, but I suspect $$ is the main motivation. In her farewells Kim cited money more than once as motivation to play the grand slams as planned before retiring..... At the time I was surprised she mentioned missing the GS income and was wondering how satisfied she was going to be as a self-described housewife.... depending on her husband's minor league income, which I guessed was not anything close to what she made on WTA...

At time I thought that she should have found an NBA player instead (haha).

I also have lost close family so not insensitive to that in the least.

Vicki said...

Pamela - Lindsay comeback wasn't that bad. I never expected Lindsay to comeback and contend of majors but it was pretty successful. 3 out of four small tournament wins and beating some good players.

I hope Kim like Lindsay finds what she's looking for in her comeback and there is one major thing Kim has going for her over Lindsay, she's 7 years younger. If she wants to comeback good luck to her.

CHWANG said...

I am also waiting for Justine's return. :)

Steel Drum Band RythmTrail said...

Whats all this stuff but womens tennis is weak. Its weak because the williams are winning right?. The williams sisters were winning even with Kim and Justine in the field so whats all this bro hah hah with them returning.

They cant save womens tennis Maria blew Justine off the court and Serena did the same to her as well.
So whats the big deal with them returning.

As for Kim come on for Christ sake. A one slam wonder some how will save the day.

Get a life everyone the williams sisters took the game to a different level Justine had to push her body to extreme ends to keep with the change until her body start saying no no no and she quit

Its hard for the rest of the field to withstand such power. The game change so get a life everyone and stop the wining