Belgium’s former world number one Kim Clijsters announced on Thursday her return to competitive tennis in 2020, seven years after retiring to become a stay-at-home mum of three children.
The 36-year-old four-time singles Grand Slam champion said she loved being a mum but missed the adrenalin of the tennis world tour.
“These last seven years I’ve been a full-time mum. And I love it, I really do. But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling,” she said on Twitter.
Clijsters won the US Open in 2005, 2009 and 2010, and the Australian Open in 2011.
She initially retired in 2007 aged 23, making a return two years later after having her first child to win her second US Open, then hanging up her racquet again after the 2012 US Open.
In a 51-second video on social media, she asked, “Could I be a loving mum to three kids, and the best tennis player I can possibly be?
“Let’s do this. Let’s come back one more time. See you in 2020.”
Her return next season was warmly welcomed by WTA chairman Steve Simon.
“Kim Clijsters ranks among the greats of the game and her return to the Tour is exciting news for the WTA family and tennis fans around the world,” he said.
Clijsters made her WTA debut aged 15 at Antwerp in 1999. She has 41 singles titles and is the only mother to top the WTA charts since computer rankings began in 1975.
Despite her lengthy time out she still ranks third among active players in terms of tournament success behind the Williams sisters — Serena with 72 titles and Venus with 49.
As well as her singles Grand Slam titles she won two more in doubles at the French Open and Wimbledon with Ai Sugiyama in 2003.
She told the WTA’s official website that her motivation to come out of retirement wasn’t that she felt she still had something to prove but rather for “the challenge”.
“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,” she said.
As a former world number one, she can expect unlimited wildcards next season.