Kim Clijsters (2009 US Open)
Belgian ace Kim Clijsters was immensely successful in the singles and the doubles, and was ranked World No. 1 in each discpline. Successful as a junior, a young Clijsters made her big professional breakthrough at the age of 16, in 1999.
She won her debut WTA title that same year in Luxembourg, and within the next four years made multiple Grand Slam finals, contesting for the World No. 1 spot. With immense consistency, Clijsters attained the No. 1 ranking in the latter half of 2003, holding it for three months.
Although she made the finals of the French Open and the semi-finals at Wimbledon en route, it would not be until 2005 that Clijsters won her first Grand Slam title at that year’s US Open.
It was that year that Clijsters had decided, she said, to retire at the end of the 2007 season. She had consistent results en route, and in 2006 made yet another Wimbledon semi-final.
Although she had planned to retire only at the end of 2007, struggling with injuries, the Belgian announced she would be calling time on her professional career at the age of only 26 in May of 2007.
She played exhibition tournaments in the following couple of years, but in 2009 Clijsters, who had struggled in the interim with the death of her father Lei Clijsters, to whom she was very close, and the birth of her first child, decided she would return to professional tennis.
Clijsters played a number of big tournaments on wild cards, progressing well into tournaments only to see late losses.
Despite this, however, Clijsters fought on till the main draw of that year’s US Open. She pulled off a series of significant upsets, over Serena and Venus Williams, Li Na and Kirsten Flipkens, becoming the first player since Venus Williams in 1997 to make it to the finals of the US Open unseeded. Clijsters also became the first ever wildcard finalist of the US Open.
And Clijsters grabbed the opportunity head-on. Up against former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the finals, Clijsters declared her return with a 7-5, 6-3 win, as a result becoming the US Open’s maiden wildcard winner.
Having just had a child the year prior, she also became only the second player in history to win a grand slam after becoming a mother – the first being Australian former No. 1 Evonne Goolagong-Cawley.