Dubai: At first, it was a feeling. Then came the excitement of doing something fresh and new. And this was followed by a simple question: “Why not?”
That exactly is the process followed by former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters as she chose to make her second comeback on the WTA during this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
“I am excited to start the journey. I’ve been practicing for a long time. I look forward to start doing why I decided to do it: to play matches and compete and learn more,” Clijsters said on Sunday.
Clijsters last played in 2012, and now, after nearly eight years the 36-year-old Belgian has to get used to a lot of things all over again, including the pre-tournament media meeting. “It’s just something you switch and you do. You know that it’s a part of this job. Obviously, what I like to do most is what I’m doing out there: being on the tennis court, working in the gym, working to get better. I’ve done this for years, so it’s OK. Not quite sick of it yet,” she said.
Clijsters then spoke about the journey that prompted her to decide in September 2019 that she wanted to make a comeback on the tour for a second time. “It was a feeling that I had inside, a feeling that I had inside for a little while. Kind of talked to a few people. Once in a while that feeling would go away when I was home with the kids. A couple times it would come back. It got stronger and stronger,” she said.
“I talked to my husband [Brian Lynch] and he was like, Why not? Stop worrying about why and ask yourself why not. He made a very good point. I was like, All right. Yeah, why not? There is no ‘why not’. Why wouldn’t I do it?”
And it has been the fire of that challenge that has pushed her these past few months. Winner of four Grand Slams, including three at the US Open and one in Australia, Clijsters will make her comeback most likely on Monday evening against two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza.
“I’ve enjoyed the challenge. I’ve enjoyed it since the day I’ve decided to go for it. It’s been with ups and downs. Being 36 years old, you know that’s how it’s been for your whole career. It is with ups and downs. It’s how you mentally stay through it, how strong you stay through those kind of situations,” Clijsters said.
“It’s all easy when it goes well, when you don’t have to worry about too many things. When things don’t go well, that’s obviously when you have to be committed and focused. I’ve been doing that. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been an interesting but very challenging process that I’m really enjoying.”
On Sunday, the Belgian practised with another former world No. 1, Simon Halep, who earlier told media that she had been nervous facing the veteran star. Surprisingly, it was no different for Clijsters either. “The feeling was likewise,” she admitted.
“I’ve been a big fan of hers [Halep] for a few years. Obviously watching her win French Open, seeing her win Wimbledon, yeah, was great to see for somebody who is such a hard worker. It was fun.”
That said, Clijsters is not putting any extra pressure on herself as she readies for yet another comeback into the big league of tennis players. “I have expectations. I don’t think they’re the expectations you would like to hear from me. They’re not result-related or ranking-related. They’re more individually for myself,” she said.
“It’s getting a feeling of how I want to play out there. That’s the expectation or the goal I’m trying to get to. I have moments now where in practice, this is it, this is how I want to play. I just have to be able to do it in matches now. We’ll see if I’m capable of doing that. I’m sure it will take time. But, yeah, like I said before, I’m kind of ready. I’m done with practicing. I want to be able to put in the work in my matches.”