Kim Clijsters return delayed until March as Bianca Andreescu withdraws from Auckland to put Australian Open hopes in doubt

Both players are working to overcome knee injuries

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 29, 2012 Kim Clijsters of Belgium returns against Britain's Laura Robson during their  2012 US Open match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.  Former world number one Kim Clijsters announced on December 23, 2019 her return to competitive tennis in Monterrey in March 2020. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY
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Former world No 1 Kim Clijsters has announced that she will be making her return to professional tennis at the Monterrey Open in March.

Clijsters, 36, was originally planning to make her comeback at next month's Australian Open - a tournament she won in 2011 - more than seven years after she retired for a second time.

However, a knee injury has delayed the Belgian's plans and she provided an update on her progress in a video posted to her social media accounts.

"I've had a really good couple of weeks regarding my knee," she said. "It's feeling much better. It's not fully healed yet, but I'm definitely building up my intensity in practice and it feels really good, so I look forward to playing my first tournament.

"Practice has been long enough but I have to be patient for a few more weeks and then I'll be ready to go."

Immediately after posting the video, Clijsters uploaded a graphic detailing her schedule, confirming she will return at the Monterrey tournament, which is scheduled for the start of March. The four-time grand slam champion will then compete at Indian Wells - where she is a two-time champion - and the Charleston Open.

Clijsters first retired in May 2007 at the age of 23 after struggling with injuries. She made her return to the WTA Tour two years later, relying on wildcards to enter events as she had no ranking. At the 2009 US Open, the Belgian still had no ranking, but made history by becoming the first unseeded player and wildcard to win the tournament. Having given birth during her hiatus, Clijsters was also the first mother to win the US Open since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980.

Clijsters retired for a second time after her involvement in the 2012 US Open, where she reached the second round. She has 41 career titles, including three US Open (2005, 2009 and 2010) and one Australian Open.

She turned professional in 1997 and reached the world No 1 ranking the first time in 2003 and most recently in February 2011 during her first comeback.

Meanwhile, the current US Open champion, Bianca Andreescu, has also had to delay her start to the 2020 season as she struggles with her own knee injury.

The Canadian world No 5 has withdrawn from her Australian Open warm-up tournament, the Auckland WTA Classic.

Andreescu has been forced out by "ongoing knee issues", tournament organisers said in a brief statement with no mention on whether her start in the Australian Open was also in jeopardy.

Andreescu won three prestigious titles this year - Indian Wells, Toronto and the US Open - before her season was cut short by injury.

She spent nearly seven weeks off the court after her knee gave way during the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in early November, but told reporters earlier this month she did not need surgery and was "just trying to rehab as much as possible and stay as positive as I can".

Serena Williams will now become the top seed in the Auckland tournament which starts on January 6.