The first match of Kim Clijsters‘ third comeback to tennis was a gracious 6-2 7-6(6) defeat to two-time Grand Slam champion and fresh Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Playing on tour for the first time in seven and a half years, the 36-year-old wildcard Clijsters lacked sharpness in the first set, as the ninth-seeded Muguruza earned a one-set lead with ruthless service holds, even though Clijsters’ baseline rallies and powerful forehand occasionally caught her off guard.
Muguruza opened the second set with a double break lead, 3-0, but then Clijsters began to find the sweetspots with her groundstrokes and erased her opponent’s advantage to level to 4-4. Muguruza recovered her form, though, and finally saw off Clijsters with a strong serve in the tiebreak.
There was a stark difference in serve levels in the first-ever meeting between Clijsters and Muguruza, as Clijsters hit three aces to ten double faults, while Muguruza recorded eight aces to three double faults. Moreover, the 97-minute match featured 19 winners by Muguruza and 15 by Clijsters.
In her first-ever meeting with Clijsters, Muguruza held off the Belgian’s furious second-set comeback to triumph in 97 minutes of play. Muguruza had 19 winners to Clijsters’ 15, and the Spaniard was helped along by winning nearly three-quarters of points off of her first serve.
Clijsters’ comeback match will stay remembered for the competitive and entertaining end of the second set, but the Belgian tennis legend obviously needs more challenges under her belt to get into the zone.