FORMER Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli has announced her professional comeback after a four-year absence from tennis.
The 33-year-old retired immediately after winning the 2013 Wimbledon title, fulfilling a lifelong ambition.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge, I still have a lot of practice ahead of me,” she said in a video posted to her Instagram account.
“I’m really looking forward to being on the court again… Especially in Paris at Roland Garros in my home country, but also for the Fed Cup and Wimbledon.”
The Frenchwoman added that she was aiming to return at the Miami Open hard court tournament in March.
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She has won eight WTA Tour titles and reached a career-high ranking of seventh in 2012, before carving out a successful career as a television pundit after retiring.
In 2016, Bartoli suffered from a mystery virus that saw her lose 20kg of weight. She said that she feared for her health after pulling out of an exhibition event at the All England Club ahead of Wimbledon that year.
But a month later, she said she was “on the road to recovery”, after struggling with an illness that medical experts said was so rare they had no name for.
Bartoli was the last French player to win a Grand Slam singles tournament four years ago, and is the only one to have lifted a major title since Amelie Mauresmo won Wimbledon in 2006.
Her comeback is reminiscent of those made by the likes of Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, and Swiss former world number one Martina Hingis.
Clijsters returned to the WTA Tour in 2009 after two years in retirement, before claiming back-to-back US Open titles and the 2011 Australian Open crown.
Hingis had plenty of success on the doubles circuit after making her second comeback in 2013, and retired for a third time earlier this year.
Unlike those three, Bartoli was never a constant at the top of the world rankings, instead quitting the game with a touch of what might have been, after winning her only Grand Slam crown.
She was far from a total one-hit wonder, though, having previously reached five major quarter-finals, including on a run to the 2007 Wimbledon final, where she lost to Venus Williams.
Bartoli will have to work her way back up through the rankings when she returns in four months’ time, although is likely to be helped on that route by wildcards.
Her return will be closely watched in France, who haven’t won the Fed Cup since 2004 — Bartoli was a member of the team that lost the 2005 final to Russia in Paris.