Four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters has given the tennis world reason to believe she can become a touring threat again with an “incredibly impressive” performance against the recent Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza in her first game in seven years .
Making her second return to tennis at the WTA event in Dubai, the 36-year-old – who had a short-term pension from 2007 to 2009 before quitting sport again in 2012 – pushed the world no. 16 all the way in a 6-2 7-6 (8-6) defeat.
His performance shocked the tennis world.
“Kim Clijsters’ incredibly impressive game in his first game in more than seven years, bringing the Australian Open Garbine Muguruza finalist to 6-2, 7-6 (6). So many vintage moments from Clijsters, “tweeted Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times.
“A lot of good signs for Kim’s kids,” commented sports commentator Nick McCarvel. “She is busy. If she remains healthy, all this has great potential.”
“All in all, it was an incredible second set of Clijsters after seven and a half years,” wrote Tumaini Carayol of The Guardian.
Muguruza, the ninth seed, 10 years younger than Clijsters, dominated at the beginning when the Belgian veteran played his first official game since the 2012 US Open.
The mother of three Clijsters, who played in Dubai for the first time in her career, remained on her feet from the start, losing service in the first game of both sets.
She found herself in two breaks at the start of the second set after being blown away in the first, but reacted furiously to lead 5-4 after nine games.
However Muguruza led the set to a draw and emerged victorious with a service winner on his second meeting point after almost an hour and three quarters on the pitch.
“The second set seemed to me to be really in the game. For a while I felt I was dominating some points, “said Clijsters.” I think it’s a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and therefore the way I managed to get back in that second set , with the kind of tennis I played.
“I’ve always liked playing night games. I felt like at the beginning with my service, with the dark sky, my timing was off sometimes. Yes, only small things I have to get used to step by step. But it was fun. “
The two-time Grand Slam winner in Spain Muguruza will play one of Veronika Kudermetova and Dayana Yastremska in the next round after having to fight a particular Clijsters in a tight second set after a simple first.
“I saw her play when I started the tour, she is an incredible player,” said Muguruza of Clijsters.
“I was thrilled to be the first (return opponent). He played very well, especially in the second set. “In the end. It was very tight. It was a fun game to play.
“I’m sure it will always improve, it will certainly give me many problems. It has sounded really well after all these years (away from home).”
Clijsters became known as Aussie Kim after hanging out with Lleyton Hewitt for several years in the early 2000s and was a popular Australian Open winner in 2011.