Kim Clijsters turns back the years but comeback ends in defeat

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Kim Clijsters, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Grand Slam, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium
Kim Clijsters of the Belgium returns the ball to Garbine Muguruza of Spain during the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, at the Dubai Tennis Stadium in the United Arab Emirates.-AFP

Clijsters conjured some sizzling shots that harked back to the good old days.

By James Jose

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Published: Mon 17 Feb 2020, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 18 Feb 2020, 4:38 PM

It was short and sweet but it was magical as long as it lasted. Former world No.1 Kim Clijsters turned back the years but her latest comeback from retirement ended in defeat, with the four-time Grand Slam champion going down to ninth seed Garbine Muguruza in the first round of the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday night.
Clijsters conjured some sizzling shots that harked back to the good old days but she couldn't prevent the Spaniard from winning 6-2, 7-6 (6) in an hour and 37 minutes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
Meanwhile, Ons Jabeur battled a slump and blisters to see off gritty American Alison Riske. The Tunisian, who was handed a wildcard, won 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3 in a match that lasted two hours and 12 minutes.
Following a hard-fought first set that went down the wire and into a tie-break, Jabeur found herself 5-0 down in the second set.
The 25-year-old had to be attended by a physio following blisters on her foot and she eventually lost the set. But Jabeur, who became the first Arab to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam when she reached the last eight at the Australian Opener, pulled things together to see the back of Riske.
Next up is a date with Romanian Simon Halep, winner here in 2015.
"I'm really happy that I made it through this win. Hopefully, I can play better next round and be able to get the win," Jabeur said after the match.
Jabeur, who reached the third round of the US Open last year, paid credit to her opponent.
"She's such a fighter," Jabeur said of Riske.
"We know that all the players who fight like this, it's tough to win against them. She didn't give me any easy balls at the beginning, so I had to go and win my point. She has such a, like, flat and tricky shots, it was kind of tough for me to really spin a little bit and put the ball in," she added.
Jabeur revealed that blisters had hampered her during the second set.
"I think I was sliding a lot. It wasn't really hot, but kind of like this weather, usually I get blisters. Next time I should really tape them before the match. I really hate to call the physios in the middle of the match. Some players will think I did it on purpose, but I really did not," explained Jabeur.
The world No.45 is kicked about facing world No.2 Halep next.
"I was really pumped from the beginning to see the schedule, the draw and everything. The second time I'm going to play her. Well, the first time really doesn't count. She was injured. But hopefully, it's going to be a great match. She's a great inspiration for many players. I'm lucky enough to play her," she said about meeting the world No.2.
Meanwhile, world No.19 Elise Mertens beat China's Qiang Wang in straight sets 6-3, 6-0 in 62 minutes. Wang had caused the biggest upset at the Australian Open when she stunned Serena Williams in the third round. But she later went on to lose to Jabeur.
"It wasn't really a great match from both sides," said Strycova.
"It's really tough conditions over here and the ball is flying everywhere. But I was really happy to keep the ball in the court. It was a really tough match for me and I'm very happy to be in the second round," added the world No.30.
In another first round match, the Czech Republic's Barbora Strycova edged past American Amanda Anisimova 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-4 in two hours and 33 minutes.

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