Clijsters' last hope for 'triggered' Barty comeback

Clijsters' last hope for 'triggered' Barty comeback Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki playing doubles at Roland Garros earlier this year.

As Ash Barty's much-anticipated return to Wimbledon is put on hold due to rain delays, four-time major champion Kim Clijsters remains hopeful the former world No.1's match will spark a desire to make a comeback.

Barty will be back on the world stage at the All England Club for the first time since her retirement in 2021, joining former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua in the invitational event and the BBC commentary team.

While Barty continues to dismiss speculation that she could come out of retirement, her return to Wimbledon generated excitement among fans and former players - who remain hopeful it will not be the last time she takes the court.

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Just 22 months after announcing she was putting down the racquet, Clijsters returned to the competitive circuit with her first child and targeted US Open success.

She went on to claim back-to-back victories at the tournament, defeating the likes of Marion Bartoli, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki.

"To have Ash playing the legends [doubles] with Casey is fun," Clijsters said on Stan Sport's Grand Slam Daily.

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"A few years ago, I was the youngest legend out there, but I'm definitely not anymore.

"It's cool, and who knows [what it might lead to]?

"Last year, seeing Caroline Wozniacki [who returned post-pregnancy] practice in between our legends matches, we were all like, 'What are you doing? Why are you practising this much?'

"There is definitely a part of me that hopes she gets triggered by the challenge and the adventure that it is to come back on tour with a family, but I don't know. I haven't heard anything about it."

Despite Barty remaining adamant she will not come out of retirement, Clijsters said she, too, never intended to return professionally again after having a child. She said training for exhibition matches triggered her desire.

"I do understand probably because I was also young when I retired the first time, and I didn't think I'd ever come back when I stopped playing," Clijsters said. 

"Nobody can really feel or understand what it's like to be from such a young age, (being) looked at as this huge talent, with the expectation and pressure.

"It gets easier to deal with it and you kind of turn off all the outside influences as you get older, but it will be interesting. I hope I get to play against her and have a chat and try to figure some stuff out."

2005 Australian Open quarter-finalist Alicia Molik said there was "no doubt" Barty would still be collecting major titles had she remained on the tour.

"We want a revival, but at the same time, we have been pretty blessed with what Ash Barty delivered us," Molik said. 

"If you look back at it, it was all condensed in a three, three-and-a-half-year period, so it's hard to replicate that immediately.

"We all want someone to have that same success, but she might be a once-in-a-generation player.

"I'm not quite sure we'll see anyone with that kind of class, poise, and ability to hit her straps quite quickly after returning to the tour, and winning slams - she had an amazing ability as a tennis player."

Dellacqua was also confident her long-time doubles partner could still dominate on the court, but the Aussie tennis great also noted the lack of time Barty currently has to fully commit to a return to the sport.

"The Wimbledon dream is embedded in us as kids. For Ash, the Wimbledon win was really special," Dellacqua said on Grand Slam Daily.

"It's probably the one that she wanted to win the most, and you can see that in terms of how much it meant to her, so I think to be a winner and champion, for Ash was something she had always dreamed about... and the stars aligned that year with it obviously being Evonne Goolagong [Cawley]'s 50th [anniversary of her 1971 Wimbledon win].

"She's playing really well [in preparation for the invitational event]. She's feeling good, she's excited but she's a busy girl this week. She's (had) a lot of commitments, on top of being a parent. I'm kid-free, so I'm just living my best life. 

"There is no doubt [she could return to the top], if she wanted to, at 28 years of age, put the work in - 100 per cent, absolutely. But you've got to put the work in. You have to respect it, but she is really happy."

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