Former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters will begin her comeback Monday in Dubai against Garbine Muguruza, not Kiki Bertens, after the draw was adjusted when sixth seed Bertens pulled out. The change in opponents shouldn't throw Clijsters off, as she's concentrating on her own game as she returns from retirement.
The four-time Grand Slam champion and mother of three had been drawn against Bertens, before the Dutchwoman withdrew following her successful title defense at St. Petersburg. Clijsters will now get arguably an even tougher opponent in two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza, who just reached the final of the Australian Open.
While Clijsters acknowledges she "was a little curious" to know who she would play in her first tour match since 2012, at this point it's not about who she's playing.
"I don’t think it really matters," she said during her packed pre-event press conference. "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."
Clijsters is happy with the way she's hitting the ball but notes it's different doing it in competition.
"I’ve been practicing well. It’s important to now try to put [this] 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," she said.
Regardless of the score in her first-round meeting, Clijsters says she's going to stay committed. Already, she initially had to delay her comeback because of injury, but has found value in her experience.
"I’ve enjoyed it since the day I’ve decided to go for it," she said. "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 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."
Unranked at the beginning of her comeback, she's competing in Dubai as a wild card. Muguruza is also a wild card entrant at the Premier-level event, which sports half the Top 10 in its field.