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Archives: Tennis Comebacks

Originally published in September 2010
Simon Nguyen

Sport comebacks are common occurrences. This is due to the nature of competitive sports. The career of a professional athlete is rather short. Consequently, athletes tend to retire at a relatively young age. Many highly successful athletes find retirement life to be incredibly boring; they often seek to return to their sport. Comebacks are especially common in women’s tennis, as many female tennis players start their careers very early and retire very young.

Most comebacks in women’s tennis have not been very successful. Case in point, former #1 player Martina Hingis returned to the tour in 2006 (from retirement), only to have to bid farewell once again after achieved only moderate successes. However, there have been three recent comebacks that appear to be bucking the trend.

The 2009 season witnessed successful comebacks of two tennis greats—Kim Clijsters and Kimiko Date Krumm. Clijsters was a former #1 player and grand slam champion. In 2007, she stunned the world of tennis when she announced her retirement from the sport at a young age of 24. Fast forwarded to 2009, Clijsters made a return to competitive tennis. Her comeback was mostly inspired by a Wimbledon exhibition match between her and the retired Steffi Graf. Kim’s comeback hitherto has been very successful, punctuated by an emotional victory at the 2009 U.S. Open.

Like Kim Clijsters, Kimiko Date retired from tennis at a young age (25). As a matter of fact, Date was at her peak when she decided to take a leave from the sport. But unlike Clijsters, Date returned to the tour not in her 20s but in her late 30s (38 to be exact). In a sport where most players retire in their 20s, her comeback appeared destined for failure. It was hard to imagine that a 38-year old woman could even win a match at the tour’s level. Yet, Kimiko Date has thus far defied all her skeptics. While she is not a threat to win grand slams, Date has been very competitive in her return. In late 2009, Date defeated several top players en route to her first title in 12 years.

The 2010 season should be equally intriguing as another tennis great is making her return to the sport. Justine Henin, who retired in 2008, announced that she would return to tennis in 2010. Her decision to return to tennis was likely to have been inspired by compatriot Kim Clijsters’ successful comeback. At 28 years of age, Henin still has a lot to offer; her recent results in Australian Open warm-ups have been very good. With all three players (Clijsters, Date, Henin) playing really well, it is a given that the trio will have an outstanding 2010.

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