She may not have had quite as many comebacks as Dame Nellie Melba, but Kim Clijsters has shown plenty of promise in her latest return to professional tennis — despite a loss in her first WTA Tour match since 2012.
- Kim Clijsters has won 41 WTA Tour titles, three US Opens and an Australian Open in singles — plus doubles crowns at the French Open and Wimbledon
- She retired for the first time in 2007 after 10 years on tour, came back in 2009 before retiring again in 2012
- The popular Belgian player has now returned again to professional tennis as a mother-of-three
The 36-year-old was always one of the most popular players on the tour, and the crowd gave her a huge reception as she lost 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Championships.
The Belgian, a four-time winner of singles major titles, is now a mother of three.
She announced in September 2019 she was returning to the tour for a second time.
Known affectionately in Australia as “Aussie Kim” because of her former relationship with Lleyton Hewitt, Clijsters had rivalries with fellow Belgian Justine Henin and an early-career Serena Williams in her first stint on tour.
She initially retired in 2007, got married and had the first of her children.
Clijsters returned about two years later and won her second and third US Opens and an Australian Open.
She retired again after the 2012 US Open.
Kim Clijsters retired for the second time after the 2012 US Open, but now she’s back for another shot at the WTA tour. (Reuters: Jessica Rinaldi)
For her re-introduction to the tour, Clijsters had a tough opponent in Muguruza, a fellow former world number one who lost in the final of the Australian Open less than a month ago.
She was broken in the opening game and struggled throughout the first set, throwing in five double faults.
WTA tweet: .@Clijsterskim ends a phenomenal rally at the net. #DDFTennis
Muguruza broke again for a 5-2 lead and was two breaks up at 3-0 in the second set before Clijsters found her stride.
Her powerful groundstrokes put Muguruza back on the defensive, and Clijsters showed she had the confidence to come to the net and finish points.
The Belgian excited the crowd by levelling the set at 4-4, but Muguruza then converted her second match point in the tiebreaker, before graciously leading the crowd in an ovation for her opponent.
“I had a good feeling out there,” Clijsters said. “Second set, I felt I was really in the match.”
“I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.
“I think that’s a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set. With the type of tennis I played, it’s something that is the positive about this match.
“I’ll take that with me for the next matches.”
Muguruza will play either Veronika Kudermetova or Dayana Yastremska in the next round.
“I think this is just special because I didn’t know how [Clijsters was] going to play,” Muguruza said.
“I’m sure she’s going to get better and better, for sure, give us a lot of trouble.”
Barbora Strycova and Elise Mertens also advanced in Dubai.
Strycova ousted Amanda Anisimova of the United States 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-4 and Mertens eased past Wang Qiang of China 6-3, 6-0.