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Dubai | Clijsters takes on Muguruza, not Bertens

Dubai | Clijsters takes on Muguruza, not Bertens

Kim Clijsters was drawn to play No 6 seed Kiki Bertens on her return to the WTA Tour at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships but that changed when the Dutchwoman, a finalist in St Petersburg on Sunday, announced her withdrawal, prompting a re-shuffle of the pack and she is now pitted against wild card Garbiñe Muguruza.


I can’t wait to return to the game I love and play in front of the fans again - the support and encouragement that I’ve received since the announcement has been overwhelming. Kim Clijsters

The 36-year-old four-time Grand Slam champion has not competed on tour since the 2012 US Open and her return to action as a wild card promises to be a baptism of fire against the Australian Open finalist who is a 2-time major winner herself.

A former World No 1, Muguruza won the 2016 French Open and The Championships in 2017, while Clijsters has 3 US Opens to her credit, 2005, 2009 and 2010, as well as the 2011 Australian Open.

“I am really excited to be getting back to the match court,” Clijsters said. “I know it’s a special anniversary for the Dubai Duty Free Championships so it’s a honour to be making my return to the game and debut in Dubai at the same time.

“I can’t wait to return to the game I love and play in front of the fans again – the support and encouragement that I’ve received since the announcement has been overwhelming.”

Clijsters is also a former World No 1, who had originally scheduled her comeback in January at the Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam, which she won in 2011, but a knee injury forced her to change her plans.

She then announced that her first tournament would be that of Monterrey, Mexico, in March, but Clijsters decided to make her return on the hard courts of Dubai after training with the Belgian Fed Cup team last week in Kortrijk.

Clijsters, who owns 41 titles in addition to her 4 Grand Slams, first took a break in 2007 and returned to competition in 2009 after the birth of her first child, Jada.

Top seed Simona Halep has been handed a first-round bye but will have to face one of the in-form duo of Alison Riske or Ons Jabeur, who will play in the first round.

Maria Sakkari versus Aryna Sabalenka is another eye-catching first round clash and the winner of that match could face reigning Wimbledon champion Halep in the quarter-final.

Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova also receives a bye and awaits a qualifier or lucky loser, as will the No 3 seed Elina Svitolina, who was shocked in the quarter-finals of Hua Hin by Nao Hibino on Friday.

No 4 seed and World No 5 Belinda Bencic, who is the defending champion, will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in what promises to be a tough opening encounter for the Swiss, although she has won their last three meetings.

Meanwhile, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, seeded No.5 for this tournament, will play her first Tour match since that triumph in Melbourne against Elena Rybakina, the other finalist in St Petersburg.

She could potentially play Pliskova in the quarter-finals in the lower half of the draw where 5 of the 6 qualifiers have been placed.

The qualifying round draw was expanded from 32 to 48 by the WTA following the cancellation of the 2020 Hungarian Ladies Open that was also scheduled to take place this week.

Consequently, there will now be 7 qualifiers, along with the lucky loser, instead of the normal 4 with the additional 16 spots being reserved for players who had been entered in Debrecen.

Main draw action in Dubai gets underway on Monday, with the final scheduled for Saturday, 22 February.

Garbine Muguruza in Dubai

© Yorick Jansens/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

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