When Kim Clijsters lost in the second round of the 2012 US Open, it was supposed to have been her last match as a player.
Now, eight years later, the 37-year-old is poised to return to Flushing Meadows for her first Grand Slam since making her second comeback from retirement earlier this year.
The three-time US Open champion, who also won the 2011 Australian Open, has been granted a wild card for this year’s event, and asserts that she still has a lot of tennis left in her.
“This isn’t for the outside; this really is for me,” the former world no 1 said to ESPN.
“It’s more a drive within me, where I know where I want to get to. And that’s what has been the motivation for this because I feel like I can still play some really good tennis.
“That’s what gave me the push to go for it. If I didn’t feel like, or if I didn’t have that confidence that I could still play good tennis, then I would have never started this. I know I still have good tennis left in me.”
The former wold no 1 had first retired at the end of the 2007 season, aged 23. Two years later though, she returned to the tour and captured her only Australian Open crown, and then picked up two consecutive titles at Flushing Meadows.
Last year, the mother of three announced that she would be returning to the tour in 2020. She has managed to play just two competitive matches so far this year, in Dubai and Monterrey, before the Covid-19 pandemic suspended the tennis tours.
“A lot of people started asking me, ‘Are you just going to retire again with all of this (pandemic) going on?’ But the thing is, I don’t mind going home and training and being home with the kids,” she said.
“I did wonder how I was going to feel, how I was going to stay motivated, but I’ve stayed very committed to it and overall my focus has been pretty good, surprisingly even. It’s been a challenge, but I enjoy it. I’ve always loved playing tennis, and that hasn’t changed.”
But now as she returns to New York to play in the relocated Cincinnati WTA, followed by the US Open (she has been given a wild card for both) – her most successful slam – she will have to play behind closed doors.
“It’s going to be strange with no fans, and I’ve always enjoyed playing in front of a crowd — especially those night matches at the US Open where there is such different energy — but it’s still going to be a tennis match and you’re still going to have your coach and somebody there to support you,” she said.
“I’m excited to get to New York and play. I haven’t played a full singles match [at WTT] or full doubles match, but I’ve played a lot of sets and I felt good. Obviously playing an official tournament again is the next step,” she said