Kim Clijsters on the air quality of the Australian Open, his return and making the divisions

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I am still able: Clijsters on their return to tennis
Australian Open 2020
Event Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: January 20 to February 2
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text in selected matches on the BBC Sport website and application.

She has been retired for more than seven years, has a hectic life as a mother of three children and is no longer as “fit and fast” as she used to be, but Kim Clijsters believes she will remain competitive when she returns to tennis.

The former world number one, 36, returns in March after a knee injury halted plans to return to the Australian Open next week.

In an extensive interview with BBC Sport, she explains what motivated her to go to the court once again, what players she hopes to face and what she thinks of the air quality problems that players face at the Australian Open.

She says that many things have changed while she was away, but can she do the divisions?

‘It would be vocal’ on the theme of air quality

It was assumed that media day at his academy in his hometown of Bree, in Belgium, was all about the long-awaited return of the four-time Grand Slam champion to tennis, but Clijsters inevitably found himself questioned about the problems of Air quality in Melbourne, where the rating has been delayed due to poor air quality due to forest fires and players have had respiratory problems.

Clijsters says that if he were at the Australian Open, it would be “vocal” for the organizers to explain how they will deal with the problem when the main draw starts Monday.

“If it is not possible to play, what is the point?” she said.

“If you can’t play and wear good tennis and be fit enough to play two hours, or even boys 4-5 hours in this environment. You can’t avoid it or ignore it.”

“The games have been delayed, but it will not solve the air quality. In the center and on the exhibition courts there is no problem: they can close the roof and they can have ventilation but on the outdoor courts … you can’t play everything an event only in a few courts of shows that have a roof.

“If I had been there, I think it would have been very vocal and at least I talked to the board and the directors of the tournament to try to think of solutions.”

She said some of her academy’s players are involved in the qualification event and have been talking about how difficult it has been.

They feel the fights at night, the cough, “Clijsters said.” It is a difficult situation to be inside. It is something that is out of anyone’s control. It’s important that players stay healthy. “

He commended the efforts of the players to raise funds for the relief fund to help the crisis, in which at least 28 people died and approximately 10 million hectares (100,000 square kilometers) of land have been burned since July 1.

“Tennis is a sport that has always joined very well to try to make money [disasters]”Clijsters said, speaking hours after the great tennis players Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were among a series of players who will participate in a charity match for the call of the forest fire.

“Everyone cares, everyone loves the Australian Open, we just have to make sure people stay safe and healthy.”

What made Clijsters out of retirement (again!)?

After years as a television expert, Clijsters is now getting used to returning to the other side of the microphone as a player.

Clijsters, who retired for the first time in 2007 at the age of 23 to start a family, hung up his racket for the second time in 2012 and has since become a busy mother, in addition to working as a television expert and playing in Several legends. events

But while commenting on players like Serena Williams, who is still winning titles at the age of 38, she had the persistent feeling that she might not have finished.

“Every time I went to a couple of tournaments, even if I was commenting or playing some legends, in the back of my mind sometimes I still felt that I could still be a player, I don’t say I won Grand Slams, but to be a player and not being among the legends or not commenting, is still competitive, “he said.

“Then I came home and was crazy about the hectic life with the children and said ‘yes, it is not possible.”

That was until his youngest son began studying.

“I thought this might give me some time and maybe I should see how far my body can go and go from there,” he said.

“Maybe this can lead to returning or playing some tournaments a year, see how I will react. It could very easily have been the other way around.”

The other key element was the rule that as a former world number one, Clijsters is eligible for unlimited wild cards in WTA tournaments. And there is no prescribed number of events in which you have to play.

“If they told me I had to play 16 tournaments a year and had to go here, here and here, I would have said it was impossible to combine it, but in this situation I can combine it,” he said.

He will return in March and has wild cards for events in Monterrey, Indian Wells and Charleston.

When asked if anyone had tried to convince her not to come back, she laughed: “At least not in my face, maybe a little behind my back.”

How will the new generation do?

Clijsters, who won 41 WTA titles and spent 20 weeks as world number one, has not publicly set any goal for his return in terms of ranking or results.

But she hopes to mix with a new generation of players, whom she has been watching from afar.

“Simona Halep is not a young player, but she is someone I have never played against, the way she played against Serena [Williams] in that final of Wimbledon [last year] It was amazing to see, “he said.

“Bianca Andreescu – what he did at the US Open [when she beat Williams in the 2019 final]. Naomi Osaka is a player I enjoy watching, not only on the court but also in her press conferences. [American 15-year-old] Coco Gauff is definitely a girl I have in mind, especially at the big events. Funny, interesting girls. ”

Not only have the players changed since he played his last competitive match at the US Open 2012.

“Today, there is more and more science behind things, for my coach and my osteopath: they also see treatments differently. There are cold therapies, many new approaches to help,” he said.

“I’ve been trying to go more, not completely vegan, but trying to be healthier. You look at food that triggers inflammation differently.” [But] there are things that have not changed: I believed a lot in deep tissue massage in the past, and I still do it. “

Can she still do the divisions?

Clijsters divisions were a registered trademark of their game.

Clijsters was always known for his agility on the court, often making divisions when trying to reach the shots. It may not be surprising, since his mother was a gymnast.

And it seems we can expect to see more.

“A few weeks ago, when I was in training camp, I did [the splits] unexpectedly. Everyone on the bench stopped and thought ‘why did you do that?’, I said ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know how it happened’, “he smiled.

“I should be able to do it, just make sure I’m fit enough to get back up without muscle pulls.”

Although her return has already been postponed due to a knee injury, physical pressures have not discouraged her.

“The knee was something unexpected of bad luck. If you put the time and look at everything around you: diet, sleep, then you are able to do many things.” said.

“If I do all that, I do not say that I will be as fit and fast and do the divisions as I used to do, I think I am able to reach a certain level where I feel happy with. It does not have to be a contender for a Grand Slam, but to put myself at a level where I’m happy, that’s the goal. “

But before all that, however, he tells us that he needs to take his daughter to basketball practice.

“But I like that, it’s my life.”

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