MELBOURNE (Reuters) - U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters, who came out of retirement last year after a two-year break, was left feeling disorientated on her return to the Australian Open.
The 26-year-old, who gave birth to a daughter during her time away from the game, plays a qualifier in the first round on her competitive return to an altered Melbourne Park.
“Obviously a lot of things have changed around the courts and everything ... so that took a few days to get used to,” the 15th seed, who lost to compatriot Justine Henin in the 2004 final, told reporters on Saturday.
“It’s just nice to see (it) again, because I never thought it would happen again (returning), obviously to be playing tennis here.”
Clijsters, who won the U.S. Open title as a wild card in just her third tournament back after retiring, was victorious at the Brisbane International last week, beating Henin in three sets and is considered one of the favorites in Melbourne.
While she put her return to her best tennis down to sheer hard work, the pace of her progress has come as a surprise.
However, it would not mean she would be throwing herself back into the tour like she had prior to motherhood.
”My schedule is this year obviously far from being busy. Obviously I hope to do well at the tournaments but I think I’ll play about 15 or 16 tournaments maybe including Fed Cups and everything.
”My focus is not really based on rankings as much as probably trying to really aim for the big tournaments, of course.
“It’s something that’s done talking a lot with my coach, my fitness coaches too, because I really want to be able to peak at the right time.”
Clijsters said the days of signing up for doubles as well as singles at tournaments were behind her, a regime which may have pushed her toward the exit door.
“Obviously my situation too with the family, I think it’s important for me to also have the life at home a little bit.”
Editing by Patrick Johnston