Kim Clijsters insisted she had a “good feeling” after her first WTA Tour match in eight years ended in defeat to Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
At 36, the Belgian is 10 years Muguruza’s senior as well as a mother of three but her last match action came at the 2012 US Open. It was her second retirement, having spent two years out of the game from 2007 – aged 23 – to 2009.
Drawn against the ninth seed and this year’s Australian Open runner-up on her return, Clijsters battled well after an understandably slow start but was beaten 6-2 7-6 (6) in an hour and 37 minutes.
She was nevertheless content with her display, telling wtatennis.com: “I had a good feeling out there. I do feel a little bit of – I’m not going to say relief, but a feeling of the pace I can handle.”
Clijsters served five double faults as she lost a 32-minute first set and when she went a break down in the second, it looked like being a short-lived first outing on her latest comeback.
She levelled at 4-4 and saved two break points in the next game to eventually set up a tie-break, but the Spaniard had too much in the tank and took it 8-6 to advance to a last-16 clash with either Veronika Kudermetova or Dayana Yastremska.
“Second set, I felt I was really in the match,” Clijsters added. “I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.
“I think that’s a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set, with the type of tennis I played.
“It’s something that is the positive about this match. I’ll take that with me for the next matches.”