“Let’s come back one more time. See you in 2020.”
Those are the words of four-time grand slam champion and former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters, who announced Thursday that she is returning to professional tennis at the age of 36.
“For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time mom,” Clijsters, who has three children, said in a video posted to Twitter. “And I love it. I really, really do. But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling. So… what if I tried to do both?”
Clijsters last played competitive matches when she was 29 years old, at the 2012 US Open. Following her retirement then, the Belgian was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2017.
This will be Clijsters’ second comeback. She first made a successful return to the WTA in 2009, winning three of her four major titles — the US Open in 2009 and 2010 and the Australian Open in 2011.
With her US Open win in 2009, Clijsters became the third WTA player to win a major after giving birth, following Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong. She returned to the No.1 spot in the world on February 14, 2011.
“While there is a lot of work ahead of me in the next four months, my biggest motivation is the personal challenge involved — both physically and mentally, I want to test myself again,” Clijsters said in a press release. “At 36 years old I feel like I’m too young to be retired and, with so many inspirational athletes and moms competing, I can’t wait to get back on the match court and see what’s possible after having three children.”
Clijsters made her WTA debut age 15 at Antwerp in 1999. She won her first major in 2005 at the US Open. In May 2007, she stepped away from the sport, marrying Brian Lynch and giving birth to her daughter Jada in 2008. She also has two sons, Jack (born in 2013) and Blake (born in 2016).
“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,” WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. “Driven by her love for the sport, this wonderful champion continues to inspire women and men in all walks of life — and she only adds to the compelling wealth of talent in women’s tennis. I wish Kim all the best in this next chapter of her playing career.”
Clijsters has 41 career singles titles and 11 career doubles titles. As a former world No. 1 and grand slam champion, Clijsters will have access to unlimited wild cards.