March 26, 2009 / 4:44 PM / 10 years ago

Motherhood and tennis? No sweat for Clijsters

BREE, Belgium (Reuters) - Former world number one Kim Clijsters is confident that motherhood will not stand in the way of a successful return to top level tennis.

After retiring in May 2007, the Belgian married basketball player Brian Lynch and gave birth to daughter Jada.

Now with a 13-month-old toddler in tow, the 25-year-old announced she would return to the WTA Tour during the U.S. hardcourt season in August.

“I am curious to see if life on tour with a family is possible. I think it is possible. I think I can make it as good for my daughter as it is for me. I think I can be successful,” she told Reuters in an interview.

“I am still young. I turn 26 in a few months. I think I am capable of doing it. But there are lot of details now, new things that have changed on tour and in my personal life.”

Clijsters, who won her solitary singles grand slam title at the U.S. Open in 2005, said she had discussed her comeback with close friend and former rival Lindsay Davenport.

The American proved it was possible to combine a successful career on tour with motherhood after she won three of the first four tournaments she played following her maternity break. She is now expecting a second child.

“I have stayed in touch with Lindsay in the last couple of years. Never really about tennis, but more about the children,” she said.

“But my last email I had with her was more about tennis. Asking her about her life on the tour and what her experience was.

“How she managed to balance the personal life and tennis life. How she worked with the WTA more so, what the options were, and so far it was very nice to hear there were no restrictions coming from that direction of the WTA or the tournament organizers,” she added.

PROLONGED BREAKS

Martina Hingis and Jennifer Capriati both made successful comebacks after taking prolonged breaks from the sport.

But in both cases, they failed to stick around for too long.

Hingis retired for a second time aged 27 in 2007 after failing a drugs test and Capriati simply disappeared from the scene in 2005.

Clijsters, who won 34 singles titles and held the top ranking for a total of 19 weeks, said even if she fails to make a successful return in the three tournaments she has decided to compete in this year — Cincinnati, Toronto and the U.S. Open — she “will not give up.”

“Just because you don’t play for two years, it is not automatic that I am going to make the finals at all those tournaments. I don’t expect that all,” she said.

“But if I lose three first rounds I am not going to say I can’t do it and that’s it. It will take time and a lot of hard work again. But I am looking forward to it and will give it all. I am really doing this for myself.”

She announced last week that she would also compete in the World Team Tennis event in the United States and would also take part in a special event at Wimbledon in May, alongside Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi and Tim Henman.

“When I got that invite from Wimbledon, I was so honored to play against Steffi and be part of those names,” Clijsters said.

“I really wanted to be on that court in good shape, hitting the ball well. So I asked a couple of people I worked with in the past if they would be interested in helping me again.

“Ever since then that hunger came back and I think it is also the hunger to do well.”

Additional reporting by Antonia van de Velde, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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