‘Aussie’ Kim and Ash two Open fairytales
FORMER World No. 1 Kim Clijsters is on the brink of a fairytale return to the Australian Open 12 years after first quitting tennis to start a family.
The Belgian mother of three, 36, is expected to earn a wildcard for January's Melbourne grand slam after recently announcing the second comeback of her career.
Australian Open director Craig Tiley said on Tuesday that Clijsters' hopes of gaining a wildcard to the event were "good''.
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"We are talking to her and her team,'' he said.
"She is in training right now and she wants to launch her comeback in Australia.
"This is one of her favourite places and we call her Aussie Kim, of course.''
Meanwhile, World No. 1 Ash Barty will eagerly leverage hometown support as the Queenslander bids to end Australian tennis's longest - and most surprising - singles drought when she contests January's Open.
Barty's phenomenal French Open triumph in May left the Australian Open with the longest gap between Australian wins at all four majors with Chris O'Neil's 1977 triumph the most recent victory on home soil.
Australians last prevailed at Wimbledon in 2002 (Lleyton Hewitt), the US Open in 2011 (Sam Stosur) and at Roland Garros this year (Barty).
The 23-year-old is on track to become the nation's first year-end women's world No. 1 since Margaret Court in 1973.
Clijsters first retired in 2007 but, after giving birth to her first child, returned to the court in 2009 and won the US Open as an unranked player, becoming the third mum to win a Grand Slam crown after Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
The fan favourite defended her US Open title in 2010 and won the Australian Open in 2011 before retiring again in 2012 with four Grand Slam singles titles and two doubles championships to her name.
But three weeks ago she stunned the sporting world by revealing she had been inspired by tennis mums such as Serena Williams and despite her age felt "too young to be retired''.
Tiley said she was an "obvious'' choice for a wildcard.
"Over the coming month we will look at any decisions that are related to that but we've still got to have more conversations with her and her team,'' he said.
"But she's a former champion, she's great for the event and we want to help where we can.''
Clijsters' likely Melbourne return comes after three time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray yesterday revealed he would also contest next year's Open despite being farewelled at this year's event.
With Rafael Nadal one title away from equalling Roger Federer's 20 Grand Slam total, Williams vying to tie Court's record 24 and Barty entering the Open world No. 1, Tiley said it loomed as "a once in a generation event''.
"It's going to be a special time … they will say they're not thinking about that but there is no way you won't be thinking about that because it's history,'' he said.
Currently 1156 points ahead of defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka, Barty is favourite to enter the January 20-February 2 grand slam as top seed and world No.1.
If so, her former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua said Barty would cope with the crushing pressure of performing well at home.
"She loves playing in Australia, so I think she'll want the crowd behind her, cheering her on, and I think that will be a huge advantage for her if anything," Dellacqua said.
Meanwhile, Tennis Australia revealed former Davis Cup-winning captain and player John Fitzgerald will be inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall Of Fame. Winner of six singles titles and world No 1 in doubles, Fitzgerald will be feted during the tournament.