Kim Clijsters, aged 22, returned to the summit of tennis in 2005 after missing twelve months with a career-threatening wrist injury. She won the US Open in September, her first ever Grand Slam victory, having previously lost in four Grand Slam finals. She might also have won the Australian Open, but had to retire in the semi-finals against Amelie Mauresmo with an ankle injury.
Her victory at Flushing Meadows was the climax of a remarkable 2005 when she won eight other tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami, Eastbourne, Stanford, Los Angeles, Toronto, Luxembourg and Hasselt in Belgium, and finished the year as World No 1, the first time she had held that ranking since August 2003. Clijsters became the first tennis player, man or woman, ever to rise from outside the top 100 – she was 134 – to No 1 in less than year.
She had returned to the tennis circuit in February 2005 in her home country tournament of Antwerp at the start of what was to prove to be a stunning comeback to the top level of tennis. As an unseeded player, she won 14 straight matches against the world’s top players to claim prestigious Tier One titles at Indian Wells and Miami. Her win at Flushing Meadows, where she beat Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Mary Pierce in the final, dispelled criticism in the past that she was not tough enough to win a Grand Slam.
Clijsters had reached her first Grand Slam final at the 2001 French Open, where she lost an extremely close match to Jennifer Capriati 12-10 in the final set. Clijsters had one of the most successful years of her career in 2003, reaching the finals of the French Open and the US Open, losing on both occasions to her compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne. Clijsters started 2004 by reaching her fourth Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, where she lost again to Henin-Hardenne. She then won two ATP titles in Paris and Antwerp, but then began to have problems with her wrist, which eventually required surgery and forced her to withdraw from the rest of 2004.