Kim Clijsters, former world number one, announces shock return to tennis after seven years

Kim Clijsters, pictured earlier this year, is making a comeback to tennis
Kim Clijsters, pictured earlier this year, is making a comeback to tennis
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Former world number one Kim Clijsters has announced a shock comeback to tennis at the age of 36.

It will be a third playing career for the popular Belgian who initially retired in 2007, returning two years later following the birth of her first child and winning three grand slam titles before hanging up her racket again in 2012.

Clijsters has since had two more children but in announcing her return she revealed she had been inspired by the success of mothers on tour, such as her contemporary Serena Williams.

Clijsters said: "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 has been in training since the start of the year and tested her fitness in singles at the test event for the Court One roof at Wimbledon in May.

She is planning to return to the match court at the start of next season, saying: "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 won the 2009 US Open title as an unranked player in just her third tournament back, becoming only the third WTA player to win a grand slam singles title as a mother after Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

She successfully defended her title in New York the following year to win a third US Open crown and also clinched the Australian Open title in 2011, ascending to world number one shortly after.

She will be eligible for unlimited wild cards, and Steve Simon, the chairman and CEO of the WTA, welcomed her return, saying: "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.

"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."