When Kim Clijsters announced that she was coming back to the women's tennis tour, there was not a lot hype about it. No one really expected her to win many tournaments, much less a major. But she shocked the tennis world by winning the U.S. Open in September.
She became the first mother to win a major since Evonne Goolagong won Wimbledon 29 years ago. What has been surprising about her comeback is the fact that she is playing at least as well or better than she was before.
She is so relaxed and confident that it is almost unreal. Her strokes are as crisp as ever, and her match management may be better than before she retired. The only thing we can attribute that to is that her life with her husband and daughter Jada are her priorities, and tennis is just an extra curricular activity.
To quote Clijsters in an interview she did recently, "You can have your own life and still be a good mother and a good wife. But I won't risk my family life falling apart for tennis."
Clijsters is poised to continue her stellar play during the 2010 season. Other than Serena Williams, there really isn't anyone else out there now that has enough of a game to beat her on a consistent basis.
What makes 2010 more interesting is that another former grand slam winner will be coming out of retirement.
Justine Hennin will be returning to add more spice to the women's tour.
Hennin, Clijsters, and the Williams sisters will renew their rivalries and liven-up a women's tour that was often devoid of excitement and quality play.
Hennin's return will be a little different than Clijsters. While Clijsters is settled in her life, who knows what mental state Hennin is in. When she left the tour in 2008 was it because she was burned out? Did her body betray her? Was it because she had won everything and didn't have anything else to play for?
We can only go by what she says, but even though Hennin is a superior athlete and a machine like tennis player, she has never been the most emotionally stable player on the tour.
In tight moments she is often seen looking to her coach in the stands as if she is seeking guidance on what to do at that time. In a sport where there is no coaching for the most part, and the players pretty much have to suck it up and work it out on their own, it was a little disconcerning to see the number one player in the world constantly looking to her coach.
Everyone's emotional make up is different, but it does play a role in how they perform on the big stages.
Not withstanding, 2010 will be one of the most interesting years in quite a while on the women's tour.
Hennin has seen the uninspiring play and knows she can get her number one ranking back.
Clijsters knows she can add more majors to her resume because she is playing like she hasn't missed a beat.
We will find out how badly Serena Williams wants to keep her current number one ranking. She is a fighter, and competes as well as anyone. She did rebound nicely from her meltdown at the U.S. Open to finish number one.
It will basically be back to the future, as the main story lines will be the renewed rivalries from a few years ago with Serena Williams, Hennin, and Clijsters. Will anyone else step up and be a part of the mix?
I doubt it.
Venus Williams in my view is no longer a threat to win any major except Wimbledon. Tennis wise, she is a little long in the tooth, and she has become inconsistent in most of the tournaments she plays in.
Caroline Wozniacki has made a nice climb up the rankings, and there is some young talent out there, but if everyone is playing up to their potential it will be harder then ever now to break in to the top five and win majors.
Maria Sharapova could be a factor, but if her shoulder and serve are not right, she may find it hard to break through.
Jelena Jankovic has taken a step back in consistency.
Dinara Safina has proven mentally incapable of winning majors.
Svetlana Kuznetsova shows flashes but can't take that next step.
Elena Dementieva can't seem to break through no matter what she does.
One thing is for sure. The window may have closed for a lot of players who have not taken advantage of the absence of Henin and Clijsters.