Kim Clijsters pushed Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza all the way.
Kim Clijsters pushed Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza all the way.

‘Wildly impressive’: Aussie Kim is back

FOUR-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters has given the tennis world reason to believe she can become a threat again on tour, delivering a "wildly impressive" performance against recent Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza.

 In her first match in seven years, making her second tennis comeback at the WTA event in Dubai, the 36-year-old - who had a short-lived retirement from 2007 to 2009 before stepping away from the sport again in 2012 - pushed the world No. 16 all the way in a 6-2 7-6 (8-6) loss.

Her performance had the tennis world abuzz.

"Wildly impressive play by Kim Clijsters in her first match in more than seven years, pushing Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza to 6-2, 7-6 (6). So many vintage Clijsters moments," The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg tweeted.

"A lot of good signs for Kim guys," sports commentator Nick McCarvel tweeted.

"She's committed. If she stays healthy this all has great potential."

"All things considered, that was a pretty incredible second set from Clijsters after seven and a half years," wrote The Guardian's Tumaini Carayol.

Ninth-seed Muguruza, 10 years younger than Clijsters, dominated early on as the veteran Belgian played her first official match since the 2012 US Open.

Mother-of-three Clijsters, who was playing in Dubai for the first time in her career, was on the back foot from the start, losing serve in the first game of both sets.

She found herself a two breaks down early in the second set after being swept aside in the first but fought back gamely to lead 5-4 after nine games.

Kim Clijsters is back. Picture: Kamran Jebreili/AP
Kim Clijsters is back. Picture: Kamran Jebreili/AP

However, Muguruza took the set to a tie-break and emerged victorious with a service winner on her second match point after nearly an hour and three-quarters on court.

"Second set I felt I was really in the match. I felt for a while I was dominating some of the points," Clijsters said.

"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.

"I always used to like playing night matches. I felt like in the beginning with my serve, with the dark sky, my timing was off at times. Yeah, just little things that I have to get used to step by step. But it was fun."

Spain's two-time Grand Slam winner Muguruza will play either Veronika Kudermetova and Dayana Yastremska in the next round after having to fight off a determined Clijsters in a tight second set following a simple first.

"I've seen her play when I started on the tour, she's an incredible player," Muguruza said of Clijsters.

"I was excited to be the first (opponent of the comeback). She played very well, especially in the second set.

"At the end. It was very tight. It was a fun match to play.

"I'm sure she's going to get better and better, for sure she give me a lot of trouble. She played really well after all these years (away)."

Clijsters became known as Aussie Kim after dating Lleyton Hewitt for several years in the early 2000s and was a popular winner of the Australian Open in 2011.