|Kim Clijsters returns the ball to Arantxa Rus during the French Open. (REUTERS/Charles Platiau)
In the days leading up to the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Kim Clijsters doesn't expect to spend much time parading around in fancy footwear.
Nope, sneakers or flats will have to do.
Clijsters is still rehabbing her second ankle injury of 2011 and with the Rogers Cup, which she won in 2005, and the U.S. Open just around the corner, the 28-year-old Belgian isn't about to push her luck by picking the wrong kind of shoe.
"No high heels," Clijsters said from New Jersey during a conference call Monday.
The tournament at Rexall Centre next month will mark Clijsters' return to competitive tennis after seven weeks on the sideline. A season that started with so much promise when she won the first major of the year, the Australian Open, quickly turned into a never-ending series of trips to a physiotherapist.
She injured her right ankle during the UNICEF Open in the Netherlands last month, forcing her to miss Wimbledon. The injury came on the heels of an earlier sprain of the same ankle which, believe it or not, happened in April when she was dancing barefoot at a wedding.
"Same foot, totally different injury," Clijsters said. "I went for a drop shot and twisted my foot, not sideways but kind of more forward. I slid, then my ankle went forward so I stretched the front of my foot. I have a lot of bone bruising on the back of my heel.
"It was obviously very frustrating. When I got injured just before Wimbledon it was very ... it gave me a real negative (feeling) about tennis. I've kind of regained that motivation and now I look forward to improving every day."
Clijsters, ranked No. 2 in the world, will need to be healthy if she hopes to repeat her 2005 performance at the Rogers Cup, when she beat compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne for her sixth WTA title of the year. The top 25 players on the circuit have entered the Toronto event, including No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Venus and Serena Williams and Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova.
And there has been a bit of a changing of the guard on tour this year, with China's Li Na winning the French Open and Kvitova taking the Wimbledon title. Old-timers such as Clijsters, who made her pro debut at 14 and has already retired once, can't just walk on to the court and expect to win.
"We're at a very interesting time in tennis, where the older generation that was dominating for so long (against the young players)," she said. "It's nice to have both generations playing for a lot of the big titles now. To see Kvitova win (Wimbledon), it's not really a surprise to me because she's a great player. To see her play so well in a final on such a big stage, to me it was a surprise. I was very impressed with how she handled it all. And Maria is definitely playing good as well.
"It's great to hear the top 25 (will be in Toronto). It only shows how we all look at the tournament. It's such a prestigious tournament, it has built up such a big reputation the last few years. That's definitely the big test where you want to do well."