Kim Clijsters signs autographs after the press conference on the eve of Dubai Open.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
Ready to step on the tennis court after nearly eight years, former World No.1 Kim Clijsters is not putting any extra pressure on herself.
The Belgian, who has chosen Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to start her second comeback to professional tennis, faces a tough first round clash against Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza.
Making her debut in Dubai, Clijsters had been due to play Kiki Bertens but the latter pulled out of the tournament.
Bertens withdrawal pitted wild card Muguruza into the draw opposite Clijsters.
“I have expectations. I don’t think they’re the expectations you would like to hear from me. They’re not result-related or ranking-related. They’re more individually for myself,” said the 36-year-old.
“It’s getting a feeling of how I want to play out there,” she added.
The four-time Grand Slam singles champion played her last match at the 2012 US Open, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017.
“That’s the expectation or the goal I’m trying to get to. I have moments now where in practice, ‘This is it, this is how I want to play’. I just have to be able to do it in matches now. We’ll see if I’m capable of doing that. I’m sure it will take time. But, yeah, like I said before, I’m kind of ready. I’m done with practicing. I want to be able to, yeah, put in the work in my matches.”
It was in July 2009, after 26 months away from the tour, that Clijsters first launched a comeback and, in just her third tournament back, she won the US Open.
She defended her crown in 2010, before going on to capture a third WTA Finals title and win the 2011 Australian Open.
Since retiring again in 2012 Clijsters, now a mother of three, has been focused on her family and the Kim Clijsters Academy in Belgium.
Speaking about the decision to make a comeback again, she said: “It was a feeling that I had inside, a feeling that I had inside for a little while. Kind of talked to a few people. Once in a while that feeling would go away when I was home with the kids. A couple times it would come back. It got stronger and stronger. I talked to my husband. He was like, ‘Why not?’ I was like, ‘All right. Yeah, why not?’ Why wouldn’t I do it?
“I’ve enjoyed the challenge. I’ve enjoyed it since the day I’ve decided to go for it. It’s been with ups and downs. Being 36 years old, you know that’s how it’s been for your whole career. It is with ups and downs. It’s how you mentally stay through it, how strong you stay through those kind of situations. It’s all easy when it goes well, when you don’t have to worry about too many things. When things don’t go well, that’s obviously when you have to be committed and focused. I’ve been doing that. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been an interesting but very challenging process that I’m really enjoying.”
She will contest her first match against the Spaniard, who is coming off a thrilling run to the Australian Open final.
“Obviously I was a little curious to see who it (her first opponent) was going to be,” she said.
“I don’t think it really matters in my situation right now. I still feel like I have a lot of things that I want to focus on myself, want to learn, start to get a feel for things again mentally, physically, emotionally, how I’m going to feel when I’m out there. So, yeah, I think that was my main concern or goal, is to get a hang of those kind of situations a little bit without having to worry too much.
“I’ve been practicing well. It’s important to now try to put whatever is going well in practice into a match and see how I will deal with being under pressure, nerves, those kind of things. That’s something that I haven’t done yet.”
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