Kim Clijsters has called time on her latest tennis comeback, announcing her retirement from playing in official tournaments.

The Belgian surprisingly stepped away from the sport in 2007, before returning in 2009 to win back-to-back US Open titles in 2009 and 2010 before being crowned the 2011 Australian Open champion.

Clijsters retired again after the 2012 US Open, where she was beaten in the second round, before returning in February 2020 at the age of 36.

The former world number one's first match in over seven years came at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, losing in straight sets to Garbine Muguruza, while her last official match was in October, when she was defeated by Katerina Siniakova in the first round at Indian Wells.

Clijsters took to Instagram on Tuesday to announce her decision, posting: "I want to share with you that I have decided to no longer play official tournaments. I can't wait to see what new adventures will cross my path. Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the past two years!"

Mother of three Clijsters revealed stepping away from tennis again had "been on my mind for a while."

"I still love to hit the ball," she told the WTA website. "With my schedule, three, four days was enough to keep my rhythm under control but definitely not good enough if I decided to play another tournament. Say, if I picked Australia, it's three, four weeks. That's just not possible at this stage in our family life.

"Life just sort of takes over, right?"

Clijsters won three US Open singles titles in all, as well as her Australian Open crown, and in 2003 won both the French Open and Wimbledon doubles titles with Ai Sugiyama.

She became world number one on four separate occasions, winning 41 overall titles and boasting a career match record of 523-131 (80.0 per cent).

Nick Kyrgios has defended Emma Raducanu amid a wave of recent criticism following the US Open champion's early exit from the Miami Open.

Raducanu was beaten by Katerina Siniakova in her first match in Miami this week after being given a bye into the second round.

She has won only four WTA Tour matches since sensationally becoming the first qualifier – male or female – to win a major in the Open Era at Flushing Meadows in September.

The 19-year-old has been in demand off the court, having last week announced she will be a brand ambassador for Porsche, but her business activities have attracted criticism.
 
Speaking after Raducanu's defeat to Siniakova, former world number five Daniela Hantuchova claimed the Briton has lost the locker room respect she had previously built up.

Kim Clijsters took aim at those who act as though they have "made it", meanwhile, though the four-time major winner did not mention Raducanu by name when making those comments.

Raducanu defended herself from the "unfair" accusations and Kyrgios has now questioned why former players have felt the need to take aim at the youngster.

"What’s with old retired players giving their opinion on our stars now?" he posted on Twitter, referencing a video uploaded by Andy Roddick on how players can curtail their anger.

"I love A-rod and I agree we all need to chill with the rackets and all that, but geezus.

"I read an article about a past female player talking about Radacanu, no offence, but she is a far, far bigger name already."

Kim Clijsters' first appearance at the Indian Wells Open in a decade did not last long, the two-time champion eliminated in the opening round.

Clijsters remains winless since coming out of retirement on the WTA Tour, falling 6-1 2-6 6-2 to Katerina Siniakova on Thursday. 

A four-time grand slam champion, the 38-year-old Clijsters has lost all five of her singles matches since her return last year. 

"I think overall, there's definitely moments where I'm feeling really good out there, and there's moments where I feel too inconsistent," Clijsters – a winner at Indian Wells in 2003 and 2005 – told reporters.

"That's part of this process in general, it's not going to be a smooth ride, and that's what I'm going to try to improve every time I'm out there."

World number 53 Siniakova converted six of nine break points on Clijsters' serve and moved on to face 10th seed Angelique Kerber at the WTA Premier 1000 event.

 

GOLUBIC HOLDS OFF VONDROUSOVA

The day's only duel between top-50 players saw world number 46 Viktorija Golubic outlast 37th-ranked Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 4-6 6-3. 

Both players struggled with their own service games, combining for three aces and 17 double faults, but it was the Swiss who managed to convert on eight of 14 break-point chances and come out on top. 

It was Golubic's first win against a player in the top 50 since joining those ranks herself in July; she had been 0-3 against them since then. 

 

GARCIA RALLIES PAST FLIPKENS, RISKE GETS RARE INDIAN WELLS WIN

Caroline Garcia fought back to defeat Kirsten Flipkens 5-7 6-4 6-0 in a match that took two hours, nine minutes to complete, firing seven aces and winning 71.2 per cent of points on her first serve. 

The Frenchwoman, who had been upset by qualifiers at her two previous tournaments in Ostrava and Chicago, meets 15th seed Coco Gauff in the second round. 

Alison Riske celebrated a victory for just the second time in seven trips to Indian Wells, cruising past qualifier Liang En-shuo 6-2 6-2 to set up a second-round matchup against 16th seed and former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu. 

Andy Murray and Kim Clijsters have been awarded wildcards for Indian Wells in October. 

Former world number one Murray will take part in the Indian Wells Masters for the first time since 2017. 

The Scot is competing in San Diego after opting to play the Moselle Open last week in a bid to improve his world ranking following a first-round loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open. 

Murray has now been handed a chance to improve on his career-best semi-final finish at Indian Wells in 2015, while Clijsters will also feature at the event, which will take place from October 4-17. 

Clijsters, another former world number one, started her comeback in 2019 after a seven-year break from tennis and will return to the tournament for the first time since 2011. 

The four-time major champion underwent knee surgery last year and made her first WTA Tour appearance since the 2020 US Open at the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic this week, losing to Hsieh Su-Wei in the first round. 

A two-time winner of the Indian Wells Open, Clijsters will be joined by Catherine McNally, Claire Liu, Katie Volynets and Katrina Scott. Newly crowned US Open champion Emma Raducanu was already a main-draw wildcard, with Ashlyn Krueger and Elsa Jacquemot also granted a place in the first round. 

A trio of Americans will join Murray in the men's draw, namely Jack Sock, Jenson Brooksby and Zach Svajda, with Denmark's Holger Rune also handed his debut as a main-draw wildcard. 

Kim Clijsters saw her latest WTA Tour comeback ended by Hsieh Su-wei at the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic on Monday.

The four-time grand slam champion, playing in her first match of 2021, was defeated 6-3 5-7 6-3 in a contest lasting two hours and 18 minutes on Stadium Court.

Clijsters, who retired in 2012, made her return to the Tour last year, losing her three matches.

After knee surgery at the end of 2020 and having contracted COVID-19 this year, the 38-year-old at last made her first appearance of the season but was bested in a gruelling contest by Australian Open quarter-finalist Hsieh.

Speaking prior to her return in Chicago, Clijsters spoke of how she was drawing inspiration from Andy Murray, who continues on the ATP circuit despite two major hip surgeries.

"Seeing Andy Murray and the way he speaks about his comeback and everything, it's so motivating and it gives you a lot of energy too," she said. "To see him go through the things he's gone through and be open about the challenges of it and the belief that he has, I feel like it's something I can relate to."

Seeds Jessia Pagula, Danielle Collins and Veronika Kudermetova all progressed in Chicago on Monday, although home favourite Madison Keys had to retire from her match with Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the US Open, the Olympic Games, Indian Wells: this year's tennis calendar is not lacking in red-ringed dates.

But August 8 and September 26 are majorly notable in that they will mark the 40th birthdays of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, respectively.

Federer's birthday falls on the final day of the Tokyo Olympics, while Williams reaches the same landmark a fortnight after the US Open women's singles final.

Both have kept their future plans quiet, but it would come as no major surprise if one, or both, were to retire by the end of the year.

Fellow grand slam greats Venus Williams, Andy Murray and Kim Clijsters may also be a matter of months away from bowing out of the professional ranks.

Will life after tennis begin at 40 for Williams and Federer, or could the superstar pair return to the French Open in 2022?

Stats Perform looked at the players who may be considering their futures, what they still want to achieve, and their prospects of attaining those remaining goals.
 

Federer's final fling?

Ahead of his 30th, Federer was asked what it felt like to hit such a milestone.

"Birthdays happen. They're part of life," Federer said. "I'm happy I'm getting older. I'd rather be 30 than 20, to be honest. To me it's a nice time."

A decade on, Federer may be similarly equanimous about hitting 40. Family life is good, he'll never need to borrow a dollar, and he has advanced from 16 grand slams to 20.

But the knees would sooner be 30 than 40, and Federer, remarkable sportsman though he is, is coming to the end of the line in his tennis career. It will hurt the Fedfans to think so, but all the evidence points to it. We are probably witnessing a lap of honour.

Having won Roland Garros only once at his peak, we can surely forget the prospect of any heroics in Paris. Federer needs to win a few rounds though, in order to be sharp and battle-hardened for the grass season. Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open are events where you might give a fit Federer a chance, even at such a veteran age, but he has played only three matches since the 2020 Australian Open, losing two of those.

Target: Federer has never settled for second best, so he will want to be a tournament winner again, no doubt about it. The hunger does not go away after 20 grand slams, but it can be more difficult to sate.

Prospects: Slim, but not forlorn. So much of Federer's game is about feel and ease of movement, and assuming that knee surgery last year means the body is in good shape again, he should be able to call on those staples of his game. Key missing ingredients are the confidence that comes with beating rivals, and match fitness. Federer's 1,243 wins and 103 singles titles count for an awful lot still, and there could be one final hurrah before the Swiss great signs off.


Serena still one short of Court

From precocious teenager to queen of the tour, Williams' tennis journey has been a 25-year odyssey and there is nobody more driven to succeed than the great American.

It must be an intense frustration that she remains rooted on 23 grand slams, one short of Margaret Court's record haul, and the four grand slam final losses she has suffered while on that mark have been cruel blows.

As her 40th birthday approaches, it would not be a surprise if Williams reached that target, but what once felt inevitable now only has the air of being a possibility. She is becoming less of a factor when looking at title favourites, but Williams is still capable of beating top players, still a threat wherever she shows up.

Target: The 24th slam remains the must-have for Williams. Tour titles feel like an irrelevance, and Williams has won just one of those since January 2017, her calendar built around peaking for the majors since returning from giving birth to daughter Olympia.

Prospects: Beating Aryna Sabalenka and Simona Halep at the Australian Open demonstrated Williams still has the game for the big stage, and a semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka, to whom she has now lost in three of four encounters, should not particularly detract from that. Williams is playing on clay primarily to get in great shape for grass, because Wimbledon, where she plays the surface with a command that others can only envy, is where that elusive 24th slam looks most likely to come.


Amid losing streak, tennis waits to learn what Venus infers

Some suspect that the Williams sisters, having arrived on tour together, might bow out at the same time too. Venus has won 49 WTA Tour-level titles but has recently slipped out of the top 100 for the first time since early 2012. Ahead of turning 41 in June, it is hard to see her being a reliable force again.

The seven-time slam winner will be needing wildcards for the grand slams unless the wins start to flow, and naturally she should have no trouble getting those backdoor tournament entries, but for a player of her stature, losing in the first round most weeks can offer little satisfaction.

It is 21 years since Venus' greatest tennis summer, when she won the Wimbledon, Stanford, San Diego, New Haven, US Open and Olympics singles titles, along with doubles glory alongside Serena at the Olympics and Wimbledon.

Nevertheless, she said at the Australian Open in February: "I'm trying to get better every day. I think that no matter what happens to you in life, you always hold your head up high, you give a hundred million percent. That's what I do every single day. That's something that I can be proud of."

Target: Venus last won a singles slam in 2008, so forget that. A run to the second week of a slam is not entirely unimaginable, or she could stun a big name early on. Venus will want to wring every last drop from her career, but you suspect more than that, she would love to be there to watch her little sister win that 24th slam.

Prospects: Since a second-round exit to Elina Svitolina at the 2019 US Open, Venus has won only four matches at WTA level, and she is presently on a run of five consecutive defeats, which began with a 6-1 6-0 trouncing by Sara Errani at the last-64 stage of the Australian Open. Her last Wimbledon appearance resulted in a first-round loss to the then 15-year-old Coco Gauff two years ago, so even hopes of a resurgence at the event she has won five times appear somewhat remote.


We wish you a Murray summer

Once a grand slam nearly man, Murray banished that reputation with his US Open triumph and twin Wimbledon titles, not to mention the two Olympic gold medals, the Davis Cup victory, and the 14 Masters 1000 tournaments he won along the way, a big-time champion on every surface.

What a career, and it deserves a fitting ending. Murray is battling one injury after another and will miss the French Open, hoping his tired frame holds up to see him through Queen's Club, Wimbledon, the Olympic hat-trick bid and the US Open.

Target: He would probably say another slam is possible, if he can get healthy and stay that way. The 'if' there is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting though.

Prospects: Should Murray manage to stay injury-free, then it will be enthralling to see what he can achieve. However, since an unexpected title in Antwerp in October 2019, he has won just four matches on the ATP Tour and one in the Davis Cup. The resurfaced hip, the troublesome groin, the pains of being Andy Murray aged 34 are proving wearing on the Scot. If he is fit enough to feature at Wimbledon, it would be a joy to see him play even just one more great singles match on Centre Court. Admirers must hope Murray follows the pattern of his career by exceeding expectations, which are logically low.


Kim wildcard wonder?

If you missed the Clijsters comeback, it is hardly surprising, given she returned to the WTA tour after a near eight-year absence just weeks before the pandemic shut down tennis, and she has barely been seen since. The three-time US Open winner was dealt bum draws in her comeback year but gave Garbine Muguruza, Johanna Konta and Ekaterina Alexandrova enough to think about in the course of three first-round defeats.

Since losing behind closed doors in three sets to Alexandrova at the US Open, Clijsters has undergone knee surgery and had COVID-19, and she does not plan to play again until after Wimbledon.

Target: If Clijsters, who turns 38 in June, can build up form and fitness, then some kinder draws would be a fitting reward for persistence. She could have quietly called time on this comeback, but the former world number one is a fighter, and it would be fitting, perhaps, if her career were to end with a night session match in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Court at Flushing Meadows. The Belgian's intentions are not entirely clear, but that prospect must have crossed her mind.

Prospects: The New York wildcard would be assured if Clijsters can show she is in any sort of form, given her US Open history. Clijsters' immediate potential is entirely unclear, but she had the highest game-winning percentage (66.7 per cent) of any woman in World Team Tennis last year, and Jessica Pegula, Sofia Kenin and Jennifer Brady were all part of that competition. Bring that game to a major and we're talking.

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