How Andy Murray inspired Kim Clijsters to make tennis comeback in Chicago

Andy Murray and Ash Barty pay tribute to each other

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As Andy Murray continues his comeback, another multiple Grand Slam champion is taking inspiration from the Briton for their own return to professional tennis. Kim Clijsters announced she would be making a comeback two years ago but has played few tournaments since returning last year, due to the pandemic and injury niggles. The former world No.1 returned in Chicago this week, losing a tight first-round, and opened up on how Murray’s own on-court exploits have motivated her.

Murray was world No.1 when he limped off Wimbledon’s Centre Court in 2017, struggling with a hip injury, and shut down his season.

After a hip surgery followed by a handful of short-lived comebacks, the three-time Grand Slam champion admitted through tears that he would likely be retiring as he arrived at the Australian Open in 2019.

After undergoing a hip resurfacing operation on returning to the UK following a first-round loss to Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne, the Brit made a successful comeback on the grass courts of Queens, entering the doubles with Feliciano Lopez and winning the title on his first tournament back.

Later that year, he won his first post-surgery title in Antwerp and he has since been working his way back up the rankings, currently sitting at world No.109.

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Clijsters has now revealed that Murray is serving as an inspiration for her, as she attempts her own comeback having retired in 2012.

Two years ago, the Belgian announced she would be attempting a comeback, and played her first match after more than seven years in retirement at the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships, drawing the recent Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza in the first round and losing.

She then played just two more tournaments before undergoing knee surgery – the Monterrey Open in March 2020 where she lost to Johanna Konta in the first round, and the US Open in August of that year, losing to Ekaterina Alexandrova in three sets.

Having gone down the surgery route in October and later contracted COVID, the 38-year-old finally continued her comeback on Monday (September 27), losing a close three-set match to Hsieh Su-wei at the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic.

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Ahead of her return in Chicago, Clijsters spoke about Murray and how his comeback had motivated her.

“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 told the WTA.

“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.”

Though Clijsters – now ranked outside the world’s top 1000 – lost a close match 3-6 7-5 3-6 to Hsieh, she said she is feeling good in her practice sessions and is excited for the challenge of translating that to the match court.

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She added: “I feel like in practice I’m doing a lot of things well and I’m getting fitter and stronger. Now it’s just a matter of trying to get enough matches.”

While the four-time major winner said she had no concrete goals for her comeback, Murray has taken the opposite route as he continues fighting on the tour, and recently spoke of his lofty goals.

Murray, 34, made it to the quarter-final of the Moselle Open in Metz last week, falling to top seed Hubert Hurkacz in a match that would have earned him a place back in the world’s top 100 had he won.

“My goal is not to get back in the top 100,” he admitted following a 7-6(4) 6-3 loss to the Pole. “I want to get back into the top 10 – [that] would be more something that would motivate me in terms of the goal.

“Winning tournaments and getting up towards the top of the rankings is motivating to me. The top 100, it doesn’t. It’s this weird thing – I don’t know why it’s considered such a huge milestone.”
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