Not many tournament directors could pick up a racket at a moment's notice, take the court, and beat a Top 10 player. Then again, no other tournament director is Kim Clijsters.
The four-time Slam champion, who has been retired since 2012, served as the tournament director of the Diamond Games in Antwerp, Belgium, last week. She found herself in a bind on the final Sunday when she got word that one of the finalists, Carla Suarez Navarro, was unable to take the court due to a neck injury.
“'Oh s---, what now?' That’s what shot through my mind when we heard that Carla was withdrawing," Clijsters said. The walkover gave Andrea Petkovic the title, but with a stadium full of ticket-buyers expecting to see a match, Clijsters knew she had to deliver something for the fans. So she gamely picked up a racket and took the court for a one-set exhibition against Petkovic.
“It was the beginning of a chaotic ten minutes," Clijsters said. "Some quick decisions had to be made. Before I knew it I was playing. What was I doing! But I think the audience appreciated it."
Clijsters has a history of proving how quickly she can shake the rust off her game. After retiring at 23-years-old in 2007, she announced her return in 2009 and won the U.S. Open as a wildcard in just her third tournament back on tour. With injuries racking her body and the desire swelling to spend more time at home with her husband, Brian Lynch, and daughter, Jada, Clijsters walked away from the game again after the 2012 U.S. Open, where she lost to Laura Robson in the second round. Against Petkovic on Sunday, it was as if no time had passed. The movement, ball-striking and precision were still there for the 31-year-old.
Clijsters won the exhibition set 5-3. "I hope you don't take any offense Kim, but I'm glad you are done playing on tour," Petkovic joked afterwards.
Here are some highlights from Clijsters' brief return:
Needless to say, the tennis twitter universe was impressed:
Watch the full exhibition set below: