After eight years off the tennis court, Kim Clijsters played her first WTA Tour match on Monday, taking on Spain’s Gabine Mugurza at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
The match ended in defeat for Clijsters, now aged 36, but she managed to produce several stunning points, and come back from a double-break down in the second set. Mugurza, who reached the final of the Australian Open last month, was too strong for Clijesters, winning the game 6-2, 7-6, (8-6).
“I had a good feeling out there, I felt a pace I can handle. I felt like I was able to go toe-to-toe with her from the baseline,” said Clijsters after the match.
“I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t have that belief somehow. It might take 10 matches to get the way I played in the second set, might take me 10 matches to get that from start to finish.
“I have patience. I’m going to work my way into it and fight. We’ll see what happens.”
— WTA (@WTA) February 17, 2020
Garbiñe Muguruza defeats Kim Clijsters 6-2, 7-6 (6). But if you didn’t know, never would have guessed that Clijsters, 36, had been away from the tour for over 7 years. Still a world-class ball striker. Lots to work on, including her second serve. But lots to feel good about, too
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) February 17, 2020
Clijsters, a former world number one and four-time Grand Slam champion, has made her comeback to professional tennis after several years away from the spotlight.
She’s now a mother of three children and says she doesn’t have anything to prove to the tennis world but still wants to challenge herself.
“The love for the sport is obviously still there. But the question still is, am I capable of bringing it to a level where I would like it to be at and where I want it to be at before I want to play at a high level of one of the best women’s sports in the world?” Clijsters said recently on the WTA Insider Podcast.
“I don’t feel like I need to prove anything, but I want to challenge myself and I want to be strong again.”
Clijsters turned professional in 1997 and in 2003, she reached world number one for the first time. She was the first Belgian to achieve a number one ranking in tennis.
Just two years after winning her first major at the US Open in 2005, Clijsters surprised many when she announced she was retiring. She was only 23, but said injuries and the desire to start a family pushed forward the decision.
In 2008, she had her first child and returned to the court two years later, winning her second US Open title as an unranked wildcard in just her third tournament back. She went on to defend the title the following year and she then won the Australian Open in 2011 and returned to the world number one spot.
At the time, Clijsters was the first mother to be ranked world number one by the WTA.
In 2017, Clijsters was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Q. It’s still there, isn’t it?
KIM CLIJSTERS: A little bit (smiling).#DDFTennis
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) February 17, 2020