38-year old Kim Clijsters, who received a wild-card to compete at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, will have to wait to achieve her first win on her comeback trail after losing to Katerina Siniakova in her opening match on Thursday.
What got me to this point is not thinking anything differently. If I just put additional thoughts in my head, then that will just create a problem. I am just going to keep going on about my business and stay the same. Emma Raducanu
The former World No 1, who is a 4-time Grand Slam champion, the mother of 3 children, and won Indian Wells in 2003 and 2005, roared back after losing the first set to the three-time major doubles champion from Czech Republic but could not sustain her momentum and went down 6-1 2-6 6-2.
“It was really special,” Siniakova said on court, after her win. “I was actually looking forward [to this], because I remember when I was young, and I was watching her play, and she always did amazing.
“So it’s unbelievable I could stay with her on the court.”
Siniakova, who is 25-years old and ranked 53 in singles, won the gold medal in doubles with Barbora Krejcikova at the Tokyo Olympics.
She never faced a break point as she swept through the first set in 27 minutes, but Clijsters made her move at the start of the second set, converting her 5th break point of a 9-minute opening game, which propelled her to a 4-0 lead in the second set, and she held on from there to level the match.
Strong volleying by Siniakova got her an early break for 3-1 in the decider as she drew errors from Clijsters to fend off break points in each of her next two service games en route to 5-2.
The Czech then closed out the win with another break after Clijsters sent a volley wide on match point.
Siniakova will next play 10th seeded Angelique Kerber, while Clijsters reflects on a 0-5 record for her latest comeback.
The Belgian, who retired for a second time in 2012 but returned to action in February last year, had knee surgery last October and returned to the court at last week’s Chicago Fall Tennis Classic, where she lost in the first round to Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei.
“Last week in Chicago I started off well but had a few games where I really wasn’t into the match,” Clijsters told reporters.
“Here too, looking for my rhythm, my anticipation again, reading my opponents, getting used to playing on a bigger court again.
“I fought my way into the match well in that second set, and I kind of put her under pressure a little bit better.
“Overall, there’s definitely moments where I’m feeling really good out there, and there’s moments where I feel too inconsistent.
“That’s part of this process in general, it’s not going to be a smooth ride and that’s what I’m going to try to improve every time I’m out there.”
Former World No 4 Caroline Garcia and former World No 11 Anastasija Sevastova were also among the early winners on Day 2, as each coming from a set down to advance to the second round.
Garcia sealed a 5-7 6-4 6-0 victory over Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens and will take on American teenager Coco Gauff in round two.
Now ranked 59, the Frenchwoman won 9 straight games to win in a 2 hour, 9-minutes, her first-ever hardcourt victory against Flipkens, who returned to the tour last week in Chicago after 6 months off with an ankle injury.
“We’ve had a couple of battles in the past and, from what I remember, every time, it was three sets most of the time,” Garcia said. “She started the match very well.
“She’s coming from qualies so she’s very confident, and for me, it’s been a tough preparation.
“I was a little bit not feeling like myself, but I kept fighting on every point. I think really improved and the end of the first set, it was really close. The second set was going more my way but she kept battling, and I stayed more solid.”
Also coming from a set down to seal a second-round berth with a final-set bagel was Latvia’s Sevastova, who battled back against Polona Hercog from Slovenia in a 3-6 6-2 6-0 victory, and she will be the first opponent for 12th seed Ons Jabeur from Tunisia.
A trio of American wins from Alison Riske, Amanda Anisimov, and Lauren Davis peppered the evening session on Day 2, with Riske, the World No 51 leading the way to set up a second-round match-up with defending champion Bianca Andreescu on Saturday.
Riske defeated qualifier Liang En-Shuo from Taipei, 6-2 6-2, in 74 minutes,
Playing contained, first-strike tennis, Riske pulled away from 2-2 in the first set, reeling off 6 consecutive games before closing out a dominant win over the former junior standout.
Anisimova, ranked 81, needed just 54 minutes to defeat compatriot Katrina Scott, 6-1 6-1.
The 2019 Roland Garros semi-finalist won 90% of her first serve points and did not face a break point against the 17-year-old wild-card.
Davis, ranked 91, came through her opener against Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz, winning 6-2 7-5 in 1 hour 36 minutes to earn a shot at No.22 seed and San Jose champion Danielle Collins.
Australia’s Astra Sharma continued her momentum after a successful qualifying campaign, defeating Donna Vekic, 6-4 2-6 6-3 to win in her tournament main draw debut.
Ranked 102, Sharma, who fired 7 aces and benefited from 9 double-faults from the Croatian, will face 2018 finalist Daria Kasatkina in the second round.
Egypt’s Mayar Sherif, who earned direct entry into Indian Wells after her strong season pushed her ranking to a career-high 72, rolled to a 6-1 6-3 win over Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic.
Day 3 sees the seeds the second half of the draw in action, one of which is Britain’s rising star Emma Raducanu, whose ascent was so rapid that she needed a wild-card into the BNP Paribas Open, although she is now ranked 22 and seeded 17.
Raducanu, who received a first-round bye, meets Aliaksandra Sasnovich, a 6-0 6-4 winner over Maria Camila Osorio Serrano on Wednesday, and if the Brit wins, she could meet two-time major champion Simona Halep in the third round.
Incredibly, this is only Raducanu’s 3rd formal WTA event, having played Nottingham in June and being wild-carded into Wimbledon, where she reached the 4th round, before triumphing in New York to win the US Open as a qualifier.
Raducanu is suddenly No 15 in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals, 489 points behind No 8 Naomi Osaka, who she could well over take as she has committed to play Moscow (WTA 500), Cluj-Napoca (WTA 250) and Linz (WTA 250) in addition to this weeks’ WTA 1000 at India Wells, all in the next 5 weeks.
Aware that a number of players before her have struggled to deal with great expectations following a major championship, Raducanu says she is doing her best not to buy into the hype.
“What got me to this point is not thinking anything differently,” she said. “If I just put additional thoughts in my head, then that will just create a problem.
“I am just going to keep going on about my business and stay the same.”
The other US Open finalist teenager is also on court on Friday for the first time since her astonishing run.
Leylah Fernandez’s path to the final in New York was even more impressive than Raducanu’s, defeating World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No 3 Naomi Osaka and No 5 Elina Svitolina before falling to Raducanu in straight sets, 6-4 6-3.
The Canadian takes on Alizé Cornet from France, who defeated Romania’s Elena Gabriela Ruse, 6-3 7-6(5).
Other notable Friday matches include 2nd seed Iga Swiatek from Poland against Croatia’s Petra Martic.
Swiatek, who has won two titles this season, is looking for a strong showing to bolster her spot in the Race Leaderboard where she currently sits at No 7.
4th seed Elina Svitolina takes on Czech Tereza Martincova in a first meeting between the two, while aniother Czech, 7th-seeded Petra Kvitova, meets Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands, who dropped just 1 game in her opening match at Indian Wells.
Swiss No 8 seed Belinda Bencic faces American Shelby Rogers after winning the gold medal in Tokyo and reaching the quarter-finals in all 5 events she has played since, including the US Open.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 9th seed from Russia takes on another American in Madison Keys, while recently married Romanian Simona Halep, the 11th seed meets Marta Kostyuk from the Ukraine and No 19 seed Jessica Pegula faces off against Sloane Stephens in an all-American contest.