Act Three: Kim Carcrashian

I was intrigued (‘intrigued’ is a polite way of saying ‘stunned’) when Kim Clijsters announced in September that she would be attempting a second comeback at the age of 36, three rascals deep, over 20 years after she played her first professional match.

I’ve always been drawn to the absurdity of the sporting comeback; the idea that a former elite athlete would risk public humiliation, and an embarrassing footnote on their career, to chase...ah, whatever it is that they’re chasing. 

I’m especially ‘intrigued’ as to what someone like Kim Clijsters, who seems far better balanced than most single-minded sportsmen, is searching for. 

Clijsters has nothing to prove to anyone other than herself. She's a four-time Grand Slam champion and a former world number one, who’s clocked up 41 titles and is widely considered to be one of the nicest people in the game (she’s an eight-time winner of the WTA Sportsmanship Award. Kyrgios voice: eight times, bro!). 

It’s been over seven years since Clijsters retired for the second time. She knows, as well as anyone, the work and the sacrifices that elite level tennis entails. So why on earth is she putting herself through it again?

The only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that it’s so unpleasant having to share a commentary box with Boris Becker that ‘Aussie’ Kim feels she has no choice but to pursue another means of subsistence.


Curiously, Becker's wax figure (above) is not permitted within a ten-metre radius of all broom closets at the Wimbledon precinct


Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli attempted a comeback of her own in 2018. The ins and outs of Bartoli's life after retirement are fit for a Tolstoy novel. Long story short: after five years away from the circuit, one abusive relationship, surviving a near death mosquito-borne virus and a diet of organically sealed salad leaves and cucumber that caused her to weigh as little as 40 kilograms, Bartoli decided to give high level tennis another crack.

Makes sense, right? 

Once Bartoli ramped up her training load, her troublesome right shoulder–which had caused her to retire in the first place–started giving her grief. Before she managed to play a tournament, Bartoli was forced to abort her comeback. 

I fear that Clijsters' comeback is destined for a similar fate, as she recently cancelled her plans to travel down under for the AO after experiencing knee soreness.

The one comeback that the tennis fraternity doesn’t like to talk about is Bjorn Borg’s attempt to re-join the professional tour in 1991. 

Borg, an 11-time Grand Slam champion, insisted on playing with the same wooden racquets that had served him well during his epic battles with John McEnroe in the late 70s and early 80s.


Borg (probably not pictured above) went down with his trusty Donnay, like a captain solemnly going down with his ship


Pitting wood against graphite is akin to taking on a nuclear warhead with a slingshot. 

Borg’s comeback did not go well. Again, I'm being polite. He failed to win a single match on tour. His fellow Swede, Stefan Edberg (who I suspect is my biological father) summed up the tennis world’s thoughts when he observed, ‘it’s very, very sad.’ 

Perhaps Borg was able to enjoy himself on the court in a way that he simply couldn’t permit himself during his (highly strung) playing days?

If this is the case, it’s difficult to begrudge him. But there’s always something sad about witnessing a legend being reduced–or reducing themselves–to a shell of their former self, particularly when they’ve inspired such fear in opponents in their heyday. We, as viewers, find ourselves revising the aura of invincibility that we once attributed to them. 

To his credit, Borg has since admitted, ‘it was madness.’ 

History now regards Borg’s comeback in much the same manner as a repressed marriage regards a past infidelity; it is rarely spoken about and festers only in the minds of those wronged by it. 

So, on the odd chance that ‘Boom Boom’ Boris is actually pleasant to be around, and Kim Clijsters isn’t as mad (or as financially crippled) as Borg, what can she possibly hope to gain from Act Three? 

Does she really think she can pull off something special? 

I sincerely hope so. This is what pricks my interest; the possibility, no matter how remote, that Clijsters believes she could snatch another Slam. It sounds like a car crash, waiting to happen. It sounds like the delusions of a natural born competitor.  It sounds like madness. 

If Kim can do it–and I believe there’s a greater chance of Margaret Court endorsing same-sex marriage–but if Kim can do it, it will rank among the greatest achievements ever in the game.

Prove me a cynic, Kim! 

As always, if you need any tennis equipment, or just fancy a chat about the game, please drop by KK Tennis. 475 Malvern Road, South Yarra. Looking forward to a great summer of tennis!

December 20, 2019 — Murray

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