Clijsters unveils comeback plan

Kim Clijsters will make her grand slam comeback at the US Open this summer after cutting short her retirement.

Kim Clijsters will make her grand slam comeback at the US Open this summer after cutting short her retirement.

The Belgian, who is a former world number one and US Open champion, announced her return to tennis today at a press conference held in the town of Bree.

She will play WTA tournaments in Cincinnati and Toronto before heading to New York for the final grand slam of the year, which begins on August 31.

Clijsters, now 25, retired in May 2007 and became a mother last year.

She will play in an exhibition event on Wimbledon’s Centre Court in May, as Tim Henman’s doubles partner in a match against Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, but will not seek a wild-card for the London grand slam in June.

“I’ll come back officially in Cincinnati and then play in Toronto,” Clijsters said. “But it could maybe change.

“My comeback will be in the United States. I won’t go to these tournaments in the same way I go on holiday. I don’t plan to go there as a tourist and come back home after one or two rounds.

“I am ambitious. My father’s death last January hasn’t influenced my comeback even if I know I felt I would be back one day.

“I have missed the competition in the last two years. I am training for one goal, to face all these talented girls.

“I have to say that I don’t know all the players’ names anymore. There are a lot of new players on the circuit.”

Clijsters and Henman will play the husband-and-wife team of Agassi and Graf at Wimbledon on May 17, when the new Centre Court roof will be tested.

It was the challenge of preparing for her Wimbledon date which convinced Clijsters to make a full-scale comeback.

“It all started with preparing for the gala match at Wimbledon, all pretty laid-back,” she said.

“I liked it that much I was onto my training schedule from my pro days and then the hunger for more comes automatically.

“I am looking at this as a second career, not as a comeback as I am now in a situation where not everything revolves around tennis 24 hours a day. We’ll see how I, (daughter) Jada and the others in my environment respond to this.”

Clijsters and her fellow Belgian Justine Henin, who quit the game in 2008 at a time when she was on top of the world rankings, were serious rivals to the once-dominant Williams sisters.

Now Clijsters hopes to regain the form which ensured she had a regular presence in the semi-finals and finals of grand slams.

She stated she hoped to be back on top “as quickly as possible”, adding: “But it will depend on how well I can find the rhythm to my game.”

Her former coach, Marc Dehous, believes Clijsters will soon be back in contention for the game’s biggest prizes.

He said: “Apart from the Williams sisters, she doesn’t have to fear anybody.

“When Martina Hingis came back, people saw her coming back into the top 20. She reached the top 10. Kim Clijsters has more weapons (than Hingis).”

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