Kim Clijsters makes her comeback at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Belgian superstar returns from retirement with debut at the WTA event this month

Belgian tennis player Kim Clijsters attends a training session of the Belgian tennis national team in preparation of the Fed Cup Qualifiers first round between Belgium and Kazakhstan, February 4, 2020 in Kortrijk.  Belgium OUT
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Tennis legend Kim Clijsters will make her historic return to action by making her debut at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this month.

The 36-year-old, who announced her comeback seven years after playing her last match at the 2012 US Open, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017 and will be a huge attraction at the 20th edition of the WTA event.

“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 an honour to be making my return to the game and debut in Dubai at the same time," she said.

"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.”

Clijsters joins a line-up that includes 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, US Open winner Bianca Andreescu, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, defending Dubai champion Belinda Bencic and recent Brisbane winner Karolina Pliskova.

One of only six women in history to simultaneously top the world rankings in singles and doubles, Clijsters held the world No1 ranking for 19 weeks before her original retirement.

She claimed 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.

The Belgian first retired from tennis in 2007 to start a family, before claiming three of her Slam titles and returning to the top of the rankings in 2011.

Since retiring again in 2012, Clijsters, now a mother of three, has been focused on her family and the Kim Clijsters Academy in Belgium, but the lure of another return has was too much to resist.

"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 be the hitting partner for your practice today’,” she told 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 ‘Okay, let's try this’."

“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 also being universally loved and respected by her peers. We wish her every success here.”

The championships runs from February 17 until the final on February 22.

The ATP event then starts on February 24 with two of the biggest names in tennis: Novak Djokovic, who defended his Australian Open title last month and returned to world No 1, and Roger Federer – the world No 3 and defending Dubai champion. In winning his record-extending eighth Dubai title last year, Federer achieved the milestone of 100 ATP Tour singles titles.

Aiming to challenge Djokovic and Federer include young Greek star and last year's finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, world No 9 Gael Monfils, world No 11 Fabio Fognini, and 2018 winner Roberto Bautista Agut.