DUBAI, UAE -- Kim Clijsters, a former World No.1 and member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, has chosen the 20th Anniversary celebrations of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships hosting the WTA Tour to begin her eagerly awaited comeback to the game.
The four-time Grand Slam singles champion, who surprised the tennis world late last year when she announced an intent to return to tennis seven years after playing her last match at the 2012 US Open, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017. She has never competed in Dubai before, and is thrilled to finally join the stellar cast competing for the trophy.
“I am really excited to be getting back to the match court. I know it’s a special anniversary for the Dubai Duty Free Championships so it’s a honour to be making my return to the game and debut in Dubai at the same time. I can’t wait to return to the game I love and play in front of the fans again - the support and encouragement that I’ve received since the announcement has been overwhelming.”
Read more: WTA celebrates return of Kim Clijsters
The 36-year-old joins an incredible line-up that includes 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, sensational newcomer and US Open winner Bianca Andreescu, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, defending Dubai champion Belinda Bencic and recent Brisbane winner Karolina Pliskova.
She will also be joined by two-time champion Elina Svitolina, who has accepted a wildcard into the event - but not by World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, who has been forced to withdraw through an injury to her right foot.
Happy to practice with the 🇧🇪 Fed Cup team - met some future stars last night and good training today.— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) February 3, 2020
Come and support the 🇧🇪 🎾 team in Kortrijk on Fri 7 & Sat 8 Feb! Tickets: https://t.co/fz4OODa3h2
@davisfedcupbelgium #CMonBelgium 🖤💛❤️ pic.twitter.com/GOimUNwtD0
“We are delighted to welcome such a great champion here for the first time and are thrilled that Kim Clijsters has chosen to include Dubai in her limited schedule as she seeks to continue her wonderful career,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.
“She is truly one of the greatest players to have graced the game, and she excelled in the often difficult challenge of being not only one of the game’s strongest competitors but in being universally loved and respected by her peers, we wish her every success here.”
One of only six women in tennis history to simultaneously top the world rankings in singles and doubles, Clijsters held the world number one ranking for 19 weeks before her original retirement. She comes to Dubai having won four Grand Slam singles titles – the 2011 Australian Open and 2005, 2009 and 2010 US Open – and two doubles titles, the 2003 French Open and Wimbledon, as well as three WTA Finals singles titles.
She retired from tennis in 2007, taking a break to start a family, and when she made her comeback to the sport she enjoyed arguably the most successful period of her distinguished career as she claimed three of her four Grand Slam titles and returned to the top of the rankings in 2011.
It was in July 2009, after 26 months away from the tour, that Clijsters first launched a comeback and, in just her third tournament back, she won the US Open to become the first mother to win a Grand Slam title since Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon in 1980.
She defended her US Open crown in 2010, before going on to capture a third WTA Finals title and win the 2011 Australian Open. Her victory in Melbourne helped her return to number one for a 20th career week, the only mother to hold the top spot since computer rankings began in November 1975.
Since retiring again in 2012 Clijsters, now a mother of three, has been focused on her family and the Kim Clijsters Academy in Belgium. However, she has decided to join the WTA Tour once again.
"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. Whenever I'm at a Grand Slam playing the legends, if somebody asked me ‘Hey, do you want to hit some balls’, I'm the first one to be like ‘I'll hit. I'll be the hitting partner for your practice today’,” she told wtatennis.com after announcing her comeback.
"The love for the sport is obviously still there. 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’."
“It is a great honor for us that Kim Clijsters has chosen to begin the third phase of her career here in Dubai,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Her decision reflects the very high esteem in which the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is held, and it will be fascinating to see how far she will be able to progress against so many top players who will be helping us celebrate 20 years of WTA tennis.”
The Dubai Duty Free Championships runs from 17th to 22nd February. Tickets are available at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.