Kim Clijsters is back again, eager to see what it feels like to be a professional tennis player at age 38 — two decades after she reached her first Grand Slam final and one decade after she won her last major singles championship.
The former No. 1-ranked player and member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame makes her latest return to the WTA Tour at the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic, which begins Monday. Clijsters, who received a wild-card invitation, will face Australian Open quarterfinalist Hsieh Su-wei in the first round.
"I have friends back at home in Belgium who said, ‘Oh, before I'm 40, I would like to run a marathon' or something like that. And I was like, ‘Yeah, so this is kind of my marathon a little bit.' But I enjoy the challenges," Clijsters said during a video conference on Sunday. "I enjoy when I'm out there and seeing how I react the next day. And like, ‘Oh, this thing is reacting this way.' Or my anticipation, how can I train to improve that? Things were just so normal back in the day. As long as I feel like I'm still improving, that's what motivates me."
Clijsters, a mother of three who wakes up at 5 a.m. at her family's home in New Jersey to train, hasn't competed since a first-round loss at the 2020 U.S. Open a little more than a year ago.
That was part of a 0-3 record last season after she made a comeback that was interrupted by knee surgery in October and when she got COVID-19 this January.