In Monterrey, Clijsters outclassed by Konta; Azarenka falls in return

In Monterrey, Clijsters outclassed by Konta; Azarenka falls in return

Playing the second event of her latest WTA comeback, the Belgian went down after an 85-minute battle with the No. 2 seed on Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, Kim Clijsters played the first match of her second comeback to the WTA tour, falling to Garbine Muguruza in a close two-setter at Dubai. On Tuesday night in Monterrey, Clijsters took the court for her second match, and once again found herself up against a Top 20 player, ultimately losing to Johanna Konta, 6-3, 7-5.

The two were playing each other for the first time.

“She’s an incredible ball-striker,” Konta said. “Her ability to do things with the ball is what made her a multiple Grand Slam champion, and why she was able to play so well in just her second match back.”

The first five games of the match went to the server, which is when the No. 16-ranked Konta started picking up steam, winning five games in a row to build a 6-3, 1-0 lead. She even brought up two break points in the next game to go up a set and a break, but Clijsters saved them both, and the two went into a holding pattern again for almost all of the second set until the Belgian served at 5-6.

That’s when Konta pounced again, bringing up double match point at 15-40. Clijsters saved the first with a big inside-out forehand that Konta couldn’t get back in play, but the wild card missed a forehand on the ensuing point, giving the Brit the win after an hour and 25 minutes.

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It was Konta’s first win since last year’s US Open. She didn’t play the rest of 2019 due to injury, and was 0-3 in 2020 coming into this week, which included a first-round loss at the Australian Open.

“This is my first win of the year, so it’s something that’s always going to be special in any season,” Konta said. “But first of all, I’m really pleased to come through such a tough match. I feel very fortunate with my performance tonight, just to come through and get into the second round.”

The Brit was also thrilled to face the four-time major champion and former No. 1 for the first time.

“As a young player, I never thought I’d get to play Kim Clijsters in my career,” she said. “I feel truly privileged and honored to share the court with such a champion. It’s nice to have her back.”

The key to the match may have been break points: Konta converted three of her eight break point opportunities, while Clijsters couldn’t create a single break point in any of Konta’s 10 service games.

“I felt some things were better. Some things still need a lot of improvement. That’s why it’s good to play matches,” Clijsters told the WTA website. “In Dubai, I didn’t start well because I was overwhelmed, but today I started and served much better than I did there. Those are a few of the positive things, and the points that have to be better, I’ll work very hard to improve them for other matches.”

The Belgian will continue her comeback tour at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells next week.

Clijsters wasn’t the only multiple Grand Slam champion, former No. 1 and mom-on-tour in action on Tuesday, with Victoria Azarenka taking center court earlier in the day. Having been off the tour since last year’s US Open due to personal reasons, Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, wasn’t so lucky. The 30-year-old went down to Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek in straight sets in 67 minutes, 6-2, 6-2.

There were two more moms in action on Tuesday and they both won, with Kateryna Bondarenko rallying from a set down to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2, and Tatjana Maria edging Heather Watson—who just won her first WTA title since 2016 at Acapulco this past Saturday—in a marathon, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 7-5.